U.S. Grains Council Helps Ensure Ethanol Has Environmental Role As Recovery Begins

As fuel demand begins its recovery around the world, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) is taking steps to ensure ethanol will continue to expand as a part of policy solutions that address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and offer a comprehensive portfolio of other benefits including air quality improvement and economic value.

USGC’s ethanol team and consultants offered an update this week to the Council’s Ethanol Advisory Team (A-Team), the member-driven group of grain producers and agribusiness representatives who identify opportunities, set priorities, and chart the course of the Council every year, giving them background on ethanol’s role in the Paris Agreement, explaining what it means to have the U.S. rejoin and presenting an outlook for ethanol as it relates to the Paris Agreement as whole.

The United States has officially rejoined the Paris Agreement, and like other countries that have made the same commitment, the United States must submit Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) that inform the country’s direction toward its goals as it updates its targets.

“Other countries are doing the same, drawing on the overall GHG emissions abatement that has occurred across various sectors,” said Brian Healy, USGC director of global ethanol market development, when he addressed the group.

“Since its inception during COP21 [21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], several countries have initiated expanded national ethanol policies that were directly implemented to meet their NDCs.

"Brazil’s RenovaBio and Canada’s Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) are two examples that come to mind.”

As many countries have listed their transportation sectors and named biofuels or ethanol specifically to contribute to overall emissions reductions outlined in the Paris Agreement, the case can be made for U.S. ethanol to help meet these countries’ global initiatives.

The UK is the most recent example of another market moving in the direction of higher ethanol blends to decarbonize their transport fuels,” Healy said.

“The global momentum in this space continues with ethanol readily available as an immediate abatement solution – one in which the U.S. has a role.”

The question at play is not only what U.S. ethanol’s role will be in meeting the United States and other countries’ Paris Agreement commitments, but also how.

“Even with policies in place, some countries are not meeting the intended goals or mandates, leaving room for further GHG emissions reductions," Healy said.

"India for example has recently announced its national plan to blend 20% ethanol nationwide by 2025.

"In the most recent market year, it blended just above a 5% rate from a nationwide average standpoint.

"Filling in that blend gap will be critical to fully realize these benefits,” Healy said.

“Identifying these gaps and demonstrating the benefit and how to fill them is an ongoing role the Council provides with its global partners.”

For instance, new research from Environmental Health and Engineering Inc. demonstrates that U.S. corn-based ethanol cuts GHG emissions by 46%, providing benefits nationally, but also globally, as ethanol trade expands.

In terms of emissions reductions, this means the United States saved more than 4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020 from ethanol exports alone and could provide other countries a pathway to meeting their own Paris Agreement commitments.

“Elevating the contribution that ethanol has already made to abate emissions globally is critical,” Healy said, “and these reductions are expected to continue as further investment in abatement technologies take place and policies expand around the globe."

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