Biofuels ‘here and now’ solution
World leaders recently gathered for the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21), and, for the first time in over 20 years of United Nations negotiations, sought to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate. COP21 presented an unparalleled opportunity to recognize biofuels as part of the renewable energy mix and as an integral tool in the fight against climate change.
Biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 to 90 percent compared to fossil fuels when incorporated into the transportation fuel pool. Thirty-six countries recognized biofuels at COP21 by including them in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions plans. And although Canada and the United States are already major producers and consumers of biofuels, neither country specifically mentioned biofuels in their COP21 plans.
The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance published a report during COP21 entitled “GHG Emission Reductions from World Biofuel Production and Use for 2015.” The report found that biofuels reduced global GHG emissions by an estimated 168.7 million metric tons in 2014. While substantial, there is room for growth. At the current growth rate, GRFA projects that the 168.7 million metric tons in 2014 will grow to 263.9 million metric tons in 2030. GHG emissions will be reduced by a further 19 million metric tons if the United States, Canada and Europe use E15 by 2030. E15 has been approved by the U.S. EPA for all post-2001 vehicles, meaning this is a solution that can be implemented without major consumer behavior changes and financial or time commitments.
The GRFA report’s findings are supported by a national survey conducted by the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association in 2015 that showed more than three quarters (88 percent) of Canadians believe more renewable fuels should be produced in Canada and that government should do more to promote the industry.
The transportation sector accounts for 23 percent of Canada’s emissions, within which biofuels offer immediate environmental and economic benefits. On a life-cycle basis, biofuels blended into Canada’s fuel mix already reduce carbon emissions by 4.2 million metric tons every year, the equivalent of nearly 1 million cars from our roads. It makes sense that increasing the use of biofuels will yield greater environmental and economic benefits in Canada.
The Paris Agreement, adopted by 195 countries at COP21, seeks to stop at nothing short of reshaping the global energy landscape. At the same time, recent decisions by Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec to standardize their cap-and-trade systems have set ambitious GHG reduction targets. For these plans to be successful, immediate solutions to cut carbon and reduce emissions are needed. Electrification is one solution, but its application may be limited and its infrastructure requires build-out. Biofuels are making meaningful impacts today.
As an industry, we have been supporting governments reach their environmental targets for decades, and we look forward to continuing this work with all levels of government. After all, the ambitions for tackling climate change have never been higher, and neither has what is at stake.
Author: Jim Grey
Canadian Renewable Fuels Association