Biodiesel an underutilized solution as US carbon emissions climb

Source: By Ron Kotrba, Biodiesel Magazine • Posted: Friday, January 11, 2019

Independent research firm Rhodium Group is estimating that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased by 3.4 percent in 2018, the second-largest annual gain since 1996. The estimated uptick in carbon emissions, which Rhodium Group based on data from the Energy Information Administration for the first three quarters of the year, weekly EIA petroleum supply data, and daily power generation and natural gas data from Genscape and Bloomberg, follows three years of decline.

The transportation sector remained the largest source of U.S. emissions for the third year in a row, “as robust growth in demand for diesel and jet fuel offset a modest decline in gasoline consumption,” the researchers state.

Biodiesel is one commercially available, known solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to nearly 90 percent compared to petroleum diesel, yet the federal government continues to set annual renewable volume obligations for biodiesel in the Renewable Fuel Standard well below volumes the U.S. biodiesel industry can produce. In addition, the myriad of small refinery exemptions the U.S. EPA—the administrating agency of the RFS—has handed out to oil companies, releasing them from their obligation to blend biodiesel under the RFS, has further reduced the role of low-carbon biodiesel in mitigating GHG emissions.

“As carbon emissions continue to climb, it is more important than ever that we do everything we can to support low-carbon fuels like biodiesel,” Don Scott, sustainability director for the National Biodiesel Board, told Biodiesel Magazine. “Whether that is through state and regional policies like the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard or Minnesota’s biodiesel fuel standard, or through expanded volumes for advanced biofuels in the Renewable Fuel Standard, the time to act is now. Biodiesel has proven to be 80 percent better than petroleum diesel on a lifecycle emissions basis through numerous scientific studies and it is available right now.”

Biodiesel-blended heating oil known as Bioheat is one effective drop-in solution for reducing noxious and greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, which is an important sector considering Rhodium Group’s research demonstrates that the largest growth in U.S. carbon emissions last year took place in buildings and industry.

“We estimate that direct emissions from residential and commercial buildings (from sources such as fuel oil, diesel and natural gas combusted onsite for heating and cooking) increased by 10 percent in 2018 to their highest level since 2004,” the researchers state. “While there have been modest improvements in the efficiency of oil and natural gas furnaces, it is not enough to offset the emissions impact of population growth and increased demand for heating …”

Scott said, “Whether in transportation or in heating buildings, biodiesel is a cleaner option that can make a substantial difference today.”

For more information about Rhodium Group’s findings, click here.