Biofuel…a big word that can mean different things to different people. According to the website energy4me.org biofuels, including ethanol, can be defined as “clean-burning, biodegradable and made from renewable resources.”
Today, in the US almost all gas sold at the pump has at least some percentage of ethanol (a biofuel) in its mix. Most gas stations sell E10—10% ethanol, 90% gas—although in the Midwest, where much of our ethanol is produced, that number can go up to as much as E15. Most cars are not approved to use higher than E10 and with ethanol’s energy output being 33% less than pure gasoline, drivers probably don’t want to change that just yet.
Nevertheless, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), burning a gallon of pure gasoline produces about 19.6lbs of CO2 but by adding 10% ethanol to the gas, that amount is reduced to about 17.6lbs. Similarly, burning a gallon of B20 biodiesel reduces CO2 emissions from 22.4lbs (pure diesel) to 17.9lbs (B20).
When considered in those terms it would seem clear that we should all switch to bio as soon as possible, especially when you consider that the EIA estimates that in 2016 gas and diesel consumption for transportation produced 30% of all US energy-related CO2 emissions.
Unfortunately, however, it’s not so simple. According to nationalgeographic.com there is an ongoing debate about “whether ethanol from corn actually provides more energy than is required to grow and process it” and that “because much of the energy used in production comes from coal and natural gas, biofuels don’t replace as much oil as they use.”
Furthermore, conservation groups argue that crops should be grown for food rather than fuel and that the mass harvesting of sugarcane and oil palms will have “devastating effects on rainforests.” Because of this scientists are working towards finding a way to convert cellulose into biofuel—if they succeed we could then harvest grasses and saplings that contain more cellulose and whose harvesting would be less harmful to the environment.
In the meantime, however, at Simply Green we are proud that our bio doesn’t come from an unsustainable crop, nor from unknown origin. Instead, Simply Green’s bio is 100% recycled cooking oil, used in local restaurants, and refined at refineries in New Hampshire and Maine before coming back to us for blending and selling on to you as either B5, B10, or B20. And until such time as the scientists come up with a better solution for crop growing, harvesting, and refining, we’ll be sticking with recycling!