It’s anyone guess as to whether the Biden administration’s push for more electric vehicles will be the beginning of a widespread move away from what are now being described as “liquid-fueled cars.”
But what is certain is that — even with a push from the White House — there will still be many, many years of filling up vehicles with gas and biofuels.
Look at it this way: The president has proposed an infrastructure plan — whose future is still uncertain — that includes billions of dollars to pay for 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, electrify public vehicles and enhance the nation’s power grid.
But there’s an estimated 279 million petroleum-powered vehicles in existence today, and they’re going to continue to be driven for a long time. Electric vehicles now make up less than 2 percent of all U.S. new-vehicle sales.
What we find ironic is that the push for more electric vehicles is based on a desire to be more environmentally friendly. So why isn’t there a bigger push — right now — for greater use of biofuels, such as corn-based ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel, that also benefit the environment?
The transportation sector accounts for the largest share of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and more than 80% of that comes from cars, pickups and larger trucks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Meanwhile, results of recent studies from Harvard and Tuft universities found that ethanol emits 46% less carbon than gasoline.
Geoff Cooper of the St. Louis-based Renewable Fuels Association says increased use of ethanol is the easiest and most obvious way to reduce carbon emissions and slowing global warming. His association supports an immediate move from gasoline blended with 10% ethanol to a blend of 15%, and we agree with that suggestion.
“If the goal is to reduce carbon impacts of our transportation sector and we knew we’re going to be using hundreds of billions of gallons of liquid fuels for the next several decades, why not take steps now to reduce the carbon intensity of those liquid fuels?” Mr. Cooper said.
Each year, U.S. refineries produce about 15 billion gallons of ethanol — about 10% the volume of gasoline — and 1.5 billion gallons of biodiesel, which is typically blended with petroleum-based diesel for trucks and other heavy vehicles.
Even the most ardent supporter of electric vehicles has to acknowledge that liquid-fueled cars will be with us for decades to come. If the state the environment is such a concern, then it only makes sense for electric vehicle supporters to also back increased use of biofuels now.