RFA: Ethanol will achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner

By Renewable Fuels Association | July 27, 2021

In a letter sent today to President Joe Biden, Renewable Fuels Association members from across the country memorialized their commitment to ensuring ethanol achieves a net-zero carbon footprint, on average, by 2050 or sooner. Ethanol is already cutting greenhouse gas emissions by half compared to gasoline, the letter says, but “we can—and must—do more” to decarbonize transportation fuels and combat climate change in the decades ahead. The letter comes after RFA’s board of directors met last week in St. Louis and adopted a resolution outlining their carbon performance goals for 2030 and 2050.

“Today’s grain-based ethanol is already a low-carbon fuel that is helping to clean up our nation’s transportation fuels,” RFA members wrote, highlighting a recent analysis from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory that shows today’s typical corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 52 percent when directly compared to gasoline. “But with smart policy measures, ethanol can do even more. It can serve as an affordable zero-emissions fuel for light-duty cars and trucks, while also helping to decarbonize medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, aviation, marine, and stationary power generation.”

Specifically, RFA’s board of directors—which is exclusively composed of renewable fuel producers—committed to the following goals during their meeting last week:

    By 2030, ensure that ethanol reduces GHG emissions by at least 70 percent, on average, when compared directly to gasoline.

    By 2050, ensure that ethanol achieves net-zero lifecycle GHG emissions, on average.

“Complex challenges call for leadership and innovative solutions,” said RFA Chairperson Jeanne McCaherty, Chief Executive Officer of Guardian Energy Management LLC. “The carbon reduction goals announced by RFA today mark a bold commitment to innovation, investment, and continuous improvement in the renewable fuels sector. Ethanol producers are already producing America’s top low-carbon fuel and are eager to do their part to decarbonize our transportation sector and move our nation toward net-zero emissions. I look forward to working with RFA’s membership, policymakers, and the entire renewable fuels industry to make this vision a reality.”

Commenting on the letter, RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper said, “Ethanol is a low-cost solution for reducing GHG emissions that is available here and now, but our industry is on the cusp of providing even bigger and better GHG reductions in the years ahead. Our member companies firmly believe that ethanol can achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by mid-century, if not well before, as the supply chain adopts carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) technologies; uses more renewable electricity and biogas to power biorefineries; and expands carbon-efficient agricultural feedstock production practices. I applaud RFA’s members for stepping up to the plate and putting their decarbonization commitments on paper for the whole world to see, and I have no doubt that zero-carbon corn ethanol is just around the bend.”

To support the achievement of its goals, RFA encouraged the administration to move forward with several key policy initiatives: development of a national Clean Fuel Standard, support for CCUS, and deployment of more flex-fuel vehicles.

The letter was signed by ethanol producers from California, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Click here for the RFA “Net Zero by 2050” explainer.