States that have enacted greenhouse gas emissions reduction programs for the transportation sector, including low-carbon fuel requirements, are realizing significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions thanks to the use of advanced biofuels including biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel in diesel engines, vehicles and equipment.
“As state leaders look for near-term, proven and available strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they will find that diesel engines, vehicles and equipment using blends of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuels are contributing the greatest benefits to reduce transportation sources of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a not-for-profit educational organization representing manufacturers of diesel engines and vehicles, key suppliers, and fuel producers.
Most recent data available evaluating California’s Low Carbon Fuels Standard has demonstrated that diesel engines and equipment using advanced biofuels, including biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel, have delivered more greenhouse gas reduction benefits than vehicle electrification and even ethanol. Advanced biofuels are defined as renewable fuels that have lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions that are at least 50 percent less than baseline greenhouse gas emissions.
In Oregon, biodiesel and renewable diesel are slated to play a key role in achieving new climate goals in Executive Order 20-04 signed by Governor Brown on March 10, 2020, which calls for further reduction in greenhouse gas emissions statewide. The executive order doubles the carbon reduction requirement for all transportation fuels sold in Oregon to achieve a 20 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2030 and a 25 percent reduction by 2035 relative to 2015 levels. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality that manages the Clean Fuels Program, the use of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel is expected to grow between 2018 and 2020. Biodiesel use in Oregon is expected to grow from 51.7 million gallons in 2018 to an expected 52.6 million gallons in 2020. Renewable diesel is expected to show substantial expansion in Oregon from 1.2 million gallons consumed in 2018 to an expected 26.7 million gallons in 2020.
“By the end of 2020, over 636,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be eliminated through the use of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuels in Oregon,” said Schaeffer. The Department of Environmental Quality forecasts 537,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions reduced are attributable to ethanol and just 118,000 tons reduced from electrification of cars, trucks, buses and off-road uses.
Oregon is home to over 150,000 diesel-powered commercial vehicles and just a few hundred natural gas-powered vehicles, according to research commissioned by the Diesel Technology Forum. “One of the benefits of the Clean Fuels Program is that the program sets a performance goal in the form of carbon reduction and lets the market place determine the most effective approach to achieve these goals,” said Schaeffer. “Biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel may use existing fuel infrastructure while any diesel vehicle or equipment may operate using these high-quality advanced biofuels. Unlike other alternatives, there is no need to invest in expensive refueling or recharging infrastructure or purchase new engines and equipment to realize these benefits.”
According to the National Biodiesel Board, 2.8 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable hydrocarbon diesel were sold in 2019, up from 545 million gallons in 2009. The industry anticipates that the use of these advanced biofuels will exceed six billion gallons by 2030, eliminating over 35 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions annually.
The advanced biofuels industry has come a long way to make sure the industry supplies high quality low carbon transportation fuels. Today, there are over 100 biodiesel plants producing low carbon transportation fuels, with plant capacities ranging from less than two million gallons a year to over 100 million gallons a year. Approximately 90 percent of U.S. biodiesel fuel is produced by facilities operating under the industry’s stringent BQ-9000 quality program, helping ensure the fuel meets or exceeds ASTM fuel quality standards and operates effectively in diesel engines and emissions control systems.
“States and regions like those in the Northeast participating in the Transportation Climate Initiative that are exploring policies and market strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions need to be fully informed about the costs, benefits, timeframes and availability of all fuel and technology strategies, including biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel, alongside renewable natural gas, hydrogen and electrification. The wide variety of commercial vehicle and off-road equipment types, along with their unique duty cycles, makes a one-size-fits-all strategy to achieve greenhouse gas reduction difficult, which is why a variety of fuels and technology choices must be included,” said Schaeffer.
“As always, the marketplace of users – truckers, equipment and fleet managers – not governments, are best suited to decide how to effectively reduce emissions from their operations. Owners of new and existing diesel-powered trucks, buses and off-road equipment, in consultation with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), will find the use of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuels a compelling choice to realize compliance as well as cost savings. It is also a solution that achieves real benefits virtually overnight using existing infrastructure and fuels, without the uncertainty of alternatives to diesel engines and their readiness for commercialization or infrastructure availability.”
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