Ethanol Slashes GHG Emissions

In advance of important climate change meetings set for Septemeber, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance sent an open letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, outlining ethanol's power to reduce GHG emissions, writes Bliss Baker.
By Bliss Baker | September 19, 2014

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was to host important climate change meetings in New York with the aim of mobilizing political will for a universal and legally binding comprehensive climate change agreement for 2015. The meetings were carefully downplayed so expectations would be kept in check, however, many see these meetings as a critical next step in developing a concrete framework for combating the impacts of climate change.

Evidence of the impacts of climate change continues to mount and climate change deniers are finding it increasingly difficult to find a receptive audience for their views. There is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are now available, which will enable us to mitigate the impacts of climate change in an economically sustainable way.

There is a sense that change is in the air. Ki-moon invited global leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 to galvanize and catalyze action to combat climate change. He asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015. It provided a unique opportunity for global leaders to champion an ambitious vision, anchored in action that will enable a meaningful global agreement for the coming year.

In an open letter to the secretary-general leading up to the meetings, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance provided attendees with current data on the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions being generated annually from global ethanol production. The letter urged attendees and the UN to focus on the opportunities available today for emission reductions, particularly in the transportation sector. The GRFA called on the secretary-general to take a leadership role fostering biofuels friendly policies that would build on the current GHG reductions that the industry is delivering each year.

The GRFA, in partnership with S&T Squared Consultants Inc., an internationally renowned energy and environmental consulting firm, is forecasting that global ethanol production and use in 2014 will reduce GHG emissions by over 106 million metric tons. The data also shows the reduction in global GHG emissions from global ethanol production continues to increase yearly. This year’s figure reveals that 90.38 billion liters of global ethanol production and use in 2014 will reduce global GHG emissions by over 291,000 metric tons per day. Compared to 2013, this is an increase of more than 7,000 metric tons per day in GHG emission savings.

In 2013, global ethanol production and consumption resulted in 100 million metric tons of GHG emissions reduction, which was equal to 20 million cars being removed from the world’s roads.
This year, global ethanol production and consumption will result in 106.4 million metric tons of GHG emissions reduction, which is equal to:
• 21,279,808 cars being removed from the world’s roads in 2014.
• 58,300 cars being removed from the world’s roads daily.
• Removing the annual emissions from 14 average-sized, coal-fired power plants, which could power approximately 28 million homes.

In a letter to Ki-moon, GRFA said that biofuels like ethanol are the only cost-effective and commercially available alternative to crude oil and are proven to reduce harmful GHG emissions and help in the fight against climate change.

It is estimated that the transportation sector produces 25 to 30 percent of the world’s GHG emissions, making it a priority for policy-makers worldwide. There are few alternatives available to reduce emissions in this sector other than biofuels that can readily replace diesel and gasoline. Global production of biofuels has grown steadily in the past decade and today replaces over 1 million barrels of crude oil per day. According to the International Energy Association, biofuels could make up 27 percent of the world’s transport fuels by 2050 and eliminate 2.1 gigatons of CO2 emissions, but strong policies must be put in place in order to meet this target. Developing a strong climate change framework at the UN meetings would be a critical starting point for reaching this important target if we are to meet the challenges we face related to climate change and global warming.

Author: Bliss Baker
Global Renewable Fuels Association