Ethanol Advocacy and Global Emissions Reduction

FROM THE FEBRUARY ISSUE: Ethanol's importance for climate goals highlighted following the 25th United Nations Climate Change conference.
By Brian Healy | January 21, 2020

COP25, the 25th United Nations Climate Change conference, wrapped up in December, leaving in its wake a clear need for enhanced advocacy regarding the benefits of ethanol and the contributions its expanded use has for carbon emissions reductions.

In 2015, countries participating in this annual event made nationally determined commitments (NDCs) for curbing carbon emissions, and at the end of this year, those same countries will measure their initial progress and report on it at COP26.

What does that mean for the ethanol industry?

Between now and then, we must collectively advocate for greater ethanol use globally as a component of the low-carbon transport solution—one that offers the population environmental, human health and economic benefits while offering the industry a role for trade.

The Global Ethanol Summit held last October in Washington, D.C., made clear to all energy consumers that energy diversification represents an opportunity to achieve emissions reductions. In years past, the dialogue surrounding ethanol use and ethanol policies has focused on the ability to produce the product domestically.

While feasible for some countries where factor endowments are favorable and where policies got off the ground, the conversation stalled in others that want to make reductions but lack domestic feedstock. Those countries are almost completely reliant on imported energy and yet apathetic to a transportation energy matrix that includes imported ethanol, simply because it is imported. There is overwhelming supporting evidence on the compatibility of higher-level ethanol blends and engine technology, with current infrastructure, product mobility and various climate conditions.

Our industry must advocate moving beyond the current standstill and status quo of renewable fuels frameworks that exist on paper into the realm of implementing energy diversification. We must find a way to jump the hurdles and push through the barriers to expand substantively and more quickly ethanol’s role in this change—even if it’s only incremental at first.

Ethanol provides a pathway to achieve the reductions to which these countries have committed. It is available globally and it provides a proven pathway to success of our industry—a true energy diversification solution.

By 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates average greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions will reach 50 percent nationwide.

The solution to achieving these commitments is already in our hands.
Both 2020 and 2025 will be critical benchmarks for how ethanol and environmental advocates have advanced and elevated the role of ethanol in the overall climate dialogue.

The success of COP partners’ NDCs is inextricably linked to further inclusion of ethanol, its producers and its importers. To get there, we must work together as a unified industry, develop smart trade policies and promote the environmental, human health and economic benefits of ethanol relative to other energy sources.

Author: Brian Healy
Director of Global Ethanol
Market Development
U.S. Grains Council