Ethanol not at odds with electric cars

Source: By Will Vraspir, Hastings Tribune • Posted: Monday, March 28, 2022

While renewable fuel producers might seem at odds with the electric car manufacturers working to make petroleum fuel vehicles a thing of the past, ethanol advocates say the two industries can work in tandem to improve the environment.

Reid Wagner, administrator for the Nebraska Ethanol Board, said the two industries share the objective of reducing the carbon intensity in the transportation sector.

“The ethanol board absolutely has no bone to pick with electric vehicles,” he said. “We support bringing them up. We just want to make sure everyone has a fair and equal shot.

Wagner believes the viewpoints between electric vehicles and ethanol and liquid fuels is misconstrued.

He said both industries have a role in the reduction of carbon emissions and he simply wants to see a level playing field.

With an estimated 200-260 million internal-combustion engine vehicles on the road, Wagner said it will take time to transition those vehicles to electric.

Only about 10 million electric vehicles are being used, less than 1% of the total number of vehicles in circulation.

“It’s going to take a bit to move all 260 million combustion engines off the road,” he said.

During that transition period, Wagner said ethanol provides a way to lessen the impact of those vehicles on carbon emissions until they can be phased out.

And there is a question as to whether combustion engines will ever be completely out of the picture. Another option will be hybrid vehicles to combine the two technologies.

“Hybrids are fantastic and versatile kind of vehicle we could absolutely help supplement in the future,” Wagner said. “Hybrids are an excellent option for us here in the Midwest.”

In areas with longer drive times or snow and other adverse weather conditions, electric vehicles can struggle due to the extra strain on batteries.

Wagner said a lot of research is being done in finding ways to use renewable fuels in areas other than consumer vehicles.

Diesel engines or aviation fuel that can incorporate renewable fuel can keep ethanol relevant, as well.

He pointed to a recent study released by the Renewable Fuels Association indicating that corn ethanol can achieve net-zero carbon emissions before 2050.

Last year, the group adopted a vision to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint for ethanol by 2050 or sooner and the study examined ways to make that happen.

The study identified five pathways to net-zero corn ethanol by 2050, based on a set of 28 emissions reduction actions that were considered.

Ideas included renewable energy use by corn and ethanol producers, expanded adoption of corn kernel fiber fermentation at dry mills, industrywide efficiency improvements and ethanol yields, carbon capture and sequestration by ethanol facilities, and expansion of conservation tillage and other low-carbon practices by corn growers.

“There’s a lot of things we’re trying to do there,” Wagner said. “All those pieces together are part of that strategy.”