Ethanol plants pledge to hit net zero emissions by 2050

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A combine with a full bin of corn.
A combine with a full bin of corn.

More than 40 ethanol plants pledged to help the president reach his climate goals. The plants, all members of the Renewable Fuels Association, said in a letter sent July 27 to President Joe Biden that they support the goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 and hit net zero by 2050.

The list of signatories includes one Ohio ethanol plant, Guardian Lima LLC, in Lima, Ohio.
Since 2008, the use of ethanol and other renewable fuels has prevented nearly 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere, according to the letter.

Ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 52%, when compared with using just gasoline. To reach the climate goals, though, the plants will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 70% by 2030.

Hitting net zero by 2050 will happen through a combination of carbon capture, utilization and sequestration, or CCUS, and low- and no-carbon technologies. That means ensuring the supply chain adopts CCUS technologies, using more renewable electricity and biogas to power refineries and expanding carbon-efficient farming practices.

“U.S. ethanol can achieve net carbon neutrality, on average, by mid-century or even sooner,” the letter said, although it later qualified that by saying it would happen with “the right policy signals.”

The letter ended by telling Biden the industry looked forward to working on more policy and regulatory actions, like developing a national Clean Fuel Standard and deploying more flex-fuel vehicles.

Taking hits

The ethanol industry is trying to bounce back after some hits from federal court rulings earlier this summer.

First, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of small refineries, making it easier for them to win exemptions from the federal Renewable Fuel Standard program. This is the program that requires a certain amount of ethanol and other renewable fuels be blended into transportation fuels.

Then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated a 2019 rule that allowed the year-round sale of E15 gasoline.

The renewable fuels industry was already feeling left behind by the Biden administration and its push toward electric vehicles, after campaigning on a platform promising to promote ethanol and other biofuels.

Ohio ethanol

The Guardian plant, in Lima, was the only one of the state’s seven plants to join the net zero pledge. The plant employs about 40 people and processes 23 million bushels of corn each year into 70 million gallons of ethanol, according to the company’s website.

Ohio’s ethanol plants have a total production capacity of about 676 million gallons of ethanol a year. The plans altogether use about 200 million bushels of corn to feed their operations.

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be contacted at 800-837-3419 or rachel@farmanddairy.com.)

Related content:

Ethanol industry takes hit from federal court rulings

How does ethanol fit into a net zero future

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Rachel is a reporter with Farm and Dairy and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation beef and sheep farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts.

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