Reducing Carbon on World Environment Day and Beyond

Posted on June 5th, 2020

Headshot of Don ScottThe biodiesel and renewable diesel industry deserve broader recognition as a home-grown solution to reduce carbon today in the hardest to reach heavy-duty applications. Because this cleaner diesel growth is connected with protein demand, the development of the fuels industry complements food markets.

Consensus among the environmental scientists supports the need for plant-based solutions. These include preserving biodiversity, optimizing production of carbon absorbing plants, and promoting healthier soils and sustainable agriculture. Alternative fuels, like biodiesel and renewable diesel, are representatives of these solutions, while co-producing protein to feed the world.

Most importantly, biodiesel in the U.S. equates to massive carbon reductions. On a lifecycle basis, and using the most recent published literature, biodiesel reduces net emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 72 to 86 percent compared to petroleum. For the heavy-duty transportation sector, finding cleaner technologies poses a difficult challenge. One needs to look no further than the West Coast and one of the most stringent environmental regulators on the planet, the California Air Resources Board. Reviewing the data of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, one can find that renewable fuels have contributed well over 45 percent of the required carbon reduction credits, and volumes are continuing to increase.

As other sectors find pathways to GHG reduction, heavy-duty transportation will remain reliant on liquid fuels for years to come, even as an array of alternatives expands. The U.S. consumes more than 40 billion gallons of diesel on its roadways every year. Only our clean diesel offers the energy density and lifecycle properties to dramatically reduce emissions in the large heavy-duty trucking industry.

Soybean Plant

Fats and oils have been around as a sustainable way to store solar energy for longer than the internal combustion engine and are 35 times more energy dense than modern electric batteries. As transportation alternatives improve on many fronts, it will be difficult to surpass the practicality of biodiesel and renewable diesel. It is far more likely that new technologies will evolve to compliment the age-old storage capacity of advanced biofuels.

The U.S. biofuels industry has recycled billions of pounds of by-products from the diverse protein supply chain. This industry has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 200 million metric tons by displacing 20 billion gallons of diesel fuel since 2005. Other harmful emissions, such as particulate matter and carbon monoxides, are reduced dramatically, as well.

Biodiesel and renewable diesel represent a powerful economic synergy between job creation, food production, and emissions reduction. In the current climate, biofuels are the way of the future. We need to look to alternative fuels like biodiesel that are better, cleaner, and here now to make significant changes in carbon reduction and improve our environment.

Don Scott serves as the Director of Sustainability for the National Biodiesel Board. His previous experiences in protecting water resources include eleven years as an Environmental Engineer for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Chief of Surface Water for the Missouri Water Resources Center. He can be reached at dscott@biodiesel.org.

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