This two-part series by Jesper Hedal Kløverpris, Sustainability Manager at Novozymes, looks at how ethanol can help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions—both today and in the decades ahead. In part one, we covered the link between transportation fuels and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In part two, we’ll consider the role ethanol will ultimately play in tomorrow’s climate solutions, as well as what we can do today to help keep the world beneath the 2° threshold.

The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) sets an annual production goal of 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2022. If fully implemented, the RFS could reduce annual U.S. transportation emissions, which contribute to air pollution and global warming, by 7%. This is when potential indirect rebound effects are taken into account. Taken at face value, 7% might not seem like much. But when considered in the context of the billions of metric tons of U.S. emissions discussed earlier, even this incremental reduction will translate into significant cuts in CO2.

And yet, cutting emissions by 7% is clearly not enough to solve the world’s problems in the long term. Ethanol will, however, continue to play a role with other future technologies—for instance, as fuel for cars running on Nissan’s recently unveiled e-Bio Fuel-Cells. Furthermore, liquid biofuels will play an increasing role in the fuel used by major airlines. While ethanol cannot be blended directly in jet fuel, the production of sugars from cellulosic material is still critical to the feasibility of biobased aviation fuels. This also goes to show that the current ethanol industry is vital for the future development of biofuels for other purposes than personal transportation.

Biorefineries and their multiple co-products have great potential to form an integral part of our ultimate climate solution. So what can we do today to increase the adoption of fuel ethanol, when it may actually matter most?

Below50: a unified voice for sustainable fuels

Policies on agriculture, energy, transportation, the environment and trade all have an influence on ethanol production and use. Various policies used by governments all over the world promote and support fuel ethanol in different ways. Blending mandates, eliminating tariffs, reducing import barriers and creating and maintaining tax incentives will clear the pathway for a more scalable and sustainable ethanol industry.

And in fact, forward-thinking businesses across the globe have already begun to take a positive step to push the private sector to lead the promotion of sustainable fuels in the form of a new initiative: Below50.

Below50 is a coalition designed to increase the number of companies using “below50” fuels, which are fuels that are at least 50% less carbon intensive than conventional fossil fuels. By scaling up the global market for sustainable fuels, Below50 is advocating for a clean energy future. As a steadfast industry advocate, we’re proud that Novozymes is one of Below50’s founding members. With other drivers in the technology, education and automobile industries, the coalition hopes to expand into every industry, further increasing the support of ethanol and sustainable fuels across the United States and beyond.

Through continued education, renewed support of policies and strong coalitions such as Below50, we can increase adoption of ethanol worldwide. Ethanol can and should be a key factor in reducing global CO2 emissions and ultimately helping us stay below the 2° threshold. To learn more about Below50, visit Below50.org.

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Jesper Hedal Kløverpris

Sustainability Manager at Novozymes
Dr. Kløverpris holds a master’s degree in environmental engineering and finalized his PhD in 2008 on the subject of global land use change caused by regional changes in crop demand. He has conducted numerous life cycle assessments of biological solutions for various industries but specializes in the broader sustainability assessment of bioenergy, for which he is the primary person responsible at Novozymes.

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