Biofuels

BIOFUELS

Ethanol is described as a renewable biofuel because it is made from biomass. A clear, colorless alcohol made from a variety of biomass materials called feedstocks (the raw materials used to make a product), fuel ethanol feedstocks include grains and crops with high starch and sugar content such as corn, sorghum, barley, sugar cane, and sugar beets. Ethanol can also be made from grasses, trees, and agricultural and forestry residues such as corn cobs and stocks, rice straw, sawdust, and wood chips.

Corn is the main feedstock for fuel ethanol in the United States because of its abundance and low price. The starch in corn kernels is fermented into sugar, which is then fermented into alcohol. From the EIA

Even though ethanol advocates claim that it is a green fuel source, industrial-scale corn farming comes with a large environmental footprint. Corn requires an average of 138 pounds of fertilizer per acre. The overuse of nitrogen fertilizer is what emits nitrous oxide (N2O), a GHG 300 times more potent than CO2, and increases nutrient run-off. Thus, corn ethanol may be worse for the environment than fossil fuels when considering the impacts associated with its production – i.e., plowing, growing, harvesting, transporting, and processing.

In 2005, The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was established by the Energy Policy Act and upgraded in 2007. In a nutshell, the RFS, which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requires petroleum refiners to add increasing amounts of renewable alternatives into the nation’s transportation fuels. The motive behind the RFS was to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, curb America’s addiction to foreign oil, and catalyze the development of new biofuels. Of the 36 billion gallons of biofuel which will be required in 2022, up to 15 billion gallons can be produced from corn. In doing so, the portion of the US corn crop devoted to fuel has quickly risen from 11 percent in 2004 to 40 percent in the present day.

By displacing about 10 percent of petroleum at the gas pump, the ethanol mandate has done little more than expand the supply of gasoline, thereby helping keep fossil fuel prices low. As a result, people can drive more while buying less efficient vehicles.

CURRENT NEWS

Climate bill rekindles debate over biodiesel tax breaks

By Marc Heller 12/01/21
Thirteen years ago, Congress decided a tax credit for companies that blend biodiesel shouldn’t go to refineries that put just a drop of the alternative fuel’s main ingredient — crops, animal fat and other organic…
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Senators Reintroduce Bill to Recognize Environmental Benefit of Biofuels

04/06/21
 U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) reintroduced the Adopt GREET Act, legislation that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update its greenhouse gas modeling for ethanol and biodiesel. Specifically, the bill…
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Exclusive: White House asks EPA to study how EVs can generate renewable fuel credits

By Jarrett Renshaw and Stephanie Kelly 04/01/21
 The White House has directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study how using renewable fuels to power electric vehicle charging could generate tradeable credits under the nation’s biofuels program, two sources familiar with the…
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‘Iowa’s good:’ Ernst, Naig talk biofuel advancements

By Lisa Grouette 10/07/20
At a press conference in Mason City on Wednesday, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig expressed enthusiasm over recently launched plans to advance biofuel infrastructure projects within the state.
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We’ll never be the Saudi Arabia of cellulosic biofuel but it’s still a real thing

By David Brooks 09/15/20
The field known vaguely as clean tech is full of promising ideas for clean power production that haven’t panned out, such as tidal power, concentrating solar towers and gigawatt hamster wheels. (OK, I made up…
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Biofuels are a controversial climate solution. Could they still help save the planet?

By Emily Pontecorvo 09/11/20
Two recent studies try to calculate these complex trade-offs, one looking at the potential benefits of growing bioenergy crops at the scale of specific land-use choices, and the other zooming out to the consequences of…
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Fortistar, Paloma Dairy partner in renewable natural-gas facility to produce biofuel for Class 8 trucks

09/03/20
Paloma Dairy is owned by the Van Hofwegen family, a fourth-generation dairy farm family in Gila Bend, Arizona. The farm relies on the latest radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology that helps to provide its distinctive black…
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HudsonAlpha On Team Awarded 5-year, $68M Biofuels Grant

09/02/20
The grant is part of a DOE project that will provide $68 million in funding over five years for basic research aimed at making more productive and resilient crops that can be used to produce…
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Climate plan addresses potential of biofuels, bioenergy

By Erin Voegele 08/25/20
The Senate Democrats Climate Committee released a new report on Aug. 25 that details how climate action by Congress can create new jobs and grow the U.S. economy. Biofuels and bioenergy are among the topics…
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Early 2020 data show U.S. biodiesel production levels largely unchanged since 2019

By Sean Hill 08/20/20
From March to May, when COVID-19 mitigation efforts were at their peak, biodiesel production averaged 114,000 barrels per day (b/d), compared with 116,000 b/d during the same period in 2019. Similarly, distillate fuel oil production,…
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No More Broken Promises: Defending the Renewable Fuel Standard and Protecting Iowa’s Farmers

By Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer 06/26/20
No More Broken Promises: Defending the Renewable Fuel Standard and Protecting Iowa’s Farmer. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) provides clean, renewable fuel in Iowa and across the country – ensuring that biofuels grown by our…
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Sen. Klobuchar hears concerns from Granite Falls ethanol plant CEO, other local biofuel leaders

By Kyle Klausing 06/25/20
While COVID-19 has been wreaking havoc on the economy across the country, the biofuel industry in particular has been struggling under the added strain. The problem, industry leaders explained to Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL) in…
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KEY RESOURCES

General Information on Running Biodiesel in Diesel Vehicles

04/25/20
Biodiesel is a direct replacement for petroleum diesel and can be used in any diesel engine without modifications. The first diesel engine was designed to run on peanut oil by German engineer Rudolf Diesel in…

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

04/20/20
Are biodiesel and vegetable oil the same thing? No, biodiesel is produced through a chemical process called transesterification which converts oils and fats of natural origin into fatty acid methyl esters (FAME). Combustion of vegetable…

Ethanol

03/10/20
Ethanol is a renewable, domestically produced alcohol fuel made from plant material, such as corn, sugar cane, or grasses. Using ethanol can reduce oil dependence and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Ethanol fuel use in the…

Biofuels Basics

03/10/20
Unlike other renewable energy sources, biomass can be converted directly into liquid fuels, called "biofuels," to help meet transportation fuel needs. The two most common types of biofuels in use today are ethanol and biodiesel,…

Tracking Transport

03/10/20
Transport biofuel production expanded 7% year-on-year in 2018, and 4% annual production growth is expected over the next five years. This falls short of the sustained 10% output growth per year needed until 2030 to…

Biofuels for sustainable transportation

03/10/20
Several compelling issues drive a national effort to develop and improve technology to make biofuels. Our dependence on petroleum for fueling the transportation sector threatens our energy security, affects our environ- ment, and weakens our…

Monthly Biodiesel Production Report

03/10/20
Biodiesel Highlights and Background, Data for December 2019.

Monthly Biodiesel Production Report

03/10/20
U.S. production of biodiesel was 133 million gallons in December 2019. Biodiesel production during December 2019 was 6 million gallons higher than production in November 2019.

MORE NEWS

Missouri biofuel entities now eligible for $200,000 grant

06/09/20  
The Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority announced June 4 the creation of the Biofuel Infrastructure Program to increase the availability of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel in the Show-Me State.
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E10 petrol: UK to standardise higher ethanol blend

03/04/20  
Petrol grades in the UK currently contain up to 5% bioethanol, known as E5. The E10 blend is already used in countries including Germany, France, Belgium and Finland. Shapps said the proposed new fuel was…
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USDA Unveils Details of Incentive Program to Boost Ethanol & Biodiesel Sales

03/02/20  
The grant funds will be available under the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP), whose purpose is to significantly increase the sale and use of higher blends of ethanol and biediesel by expanding the infrastructure…
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In Midwest, ethanol and electric vehicle advocates join forces on clean fuel plan

By Frank Jossi   03/02/20  
More than two dozen organizations have been meeting for nearly two years in Minnesota to work on a “technology-neutral” policy proposal aimed at decarbonizing transportation, which has surpassed electricity production as the state’s largest source…
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Biofuel could save oil companies as more transit goes electric

By James Osborne   02/24/20  
After years stuck in the doldrums of the American energy industry, biofuels are getting new attention from both established oil companies and a wave of startups that are quickly expanding capacity to produce so-called advanced…
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Trump administration wants biofuels to be 30% of transportation fuels by 2050

02/20/20  
The biofuel goal is part of a new department-wide sustainability initiative, set to be announced Thursday by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, which aims to boost farm production by 40% and cut the farm sector's environmental…
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US Department of Energy to invest $300 million in sustainable transportation research

01/24/20  
The investment, which was announced by under secretary of energy Mark W. Menzes, supports the DOE’s goal of ensuring that as the transportation system transforms, consumers have access to affordable, clean, efficient and domestic energy…
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Biofuels, explained

By Christina Nunez   07/15/19  
Biofuels have been around longer than cars have, but cheap gasoline and diesel have long kept them on the fringe. Spikes in oil prices, and now global efforts to stave off the worst effects of climate…
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PBS

The Ethanol Effect

10/09/16  
From Iowa's farm fields to Washington's corridors of power, and from the algae-choked surface of the Great Lakes to the poisoned depths of the Gulf of Mexico, "The Ethanol Effect" investigates the human, environmental and…
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