E15 could significantly reduce CO2 emissions in Minnesota

By Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association | February 19, 2015

Making E15 (gasoline with 15 percent ethanol) the new regular unleaded fuel in Minnesota would eliminate 358,000 tons of CO2 annually, according to a technical analysis by the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In response to a query by the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, Steffen Mueller, principal research economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said a gallon of E15 saves 1.26 g of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per megajoule over regular E10 (gasoline that contains 10 percent ethanol). CO2e includes carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane.

Annual gasoline consumption in Minnesota averages 2.4 billion gallons. Should all 2.4 billion gallons be converted to E15 from E10, CO2e savings in the state would total 358,000 metric tons annually, Mueller said.

Using the U.S. EPA’s greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator, this would amount to eliminating 75,368 passenger vehicles from Minnesota's roads annually.

"Dr. Mueller's technical analysis is a clear illustration of the benefits E15 has in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota.”

"With the use of E15 approved for all light-duty vehicles model year 2001 and newer (which is over 80 percent of the vehicles on the road), it is clear that the best path towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota is by making E15 the new regular fuel," said Tim Rudnicki, executive director at the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association.

The reduction in CO2e in Minnesota from using E15 is on top of the amount of CO2e already eliminated by using E10. By comparing E15 to gasoline that contains no ethanol, the CO2e savings would total 1.07 million metric tons annually in Minnesota, Mueller said.

This, according to the EPA's greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator, is the same as removing 225,895 vehicles from Minnesota's roads annually.

Mueller's analysis were based on a life cycle basis which includes emissions incurred during the production of ethanol including fuel feedstock origination (corn growing), feedstock conversion at refineries and combustion in a vehicle.

Included in the analysis were land use change (LUC) requirements for feedstock production. In his analysis, he said published studies on LUC emissions have shown a significant reduction in the predicted magnitude of carbon emissions over time and the downward trend is due to:

1) An evolving understanding of the elasticity of land transition and yield-price relationships

2) Better understanding of ethanol co-product substitutions in animal feed markets

3) Better understanding and data availability of global land types

4) Carbon adjustments during land transitions

Mueller’s analysis on E15 was arrived at using Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET (greenhouse gases, regulated emissions, and energy use in transportation) model which incorporates detailed carbon stock factors for different ecosystems that enable an exhaustive analysis of carbon emissions and sequestration from LUC.

Argonne National Laboratory is managed by the UChicago Argonne LLC for the U.S Department of Energy.

Access to E15 in Minnesota has steadily increased in recent months. Today, there are 18 stations in Minnesota, of which 11 are in the Twin Cities metro area, that offer E15 with several more stations expected to begin offering E15 in the coming months.