CRC report supports position of biodiesel as low carbon fuel

By The National Biodiesel Board | May 17, 2016

Scientific experts agree that biodiesel holds significant promise in the effort to reduce carbon emissions. Last year, biodiesel use in the U.S. cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 18 million tons, or the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of 3.8 million cars.

A new consensus report from the Coordinating Research Council now adds to the growing evidence in support of biodiesel as a low carbon fuel. Key conclusions from this report show that carbon emissions from biofuels are declining relative to petroleum, and confidence in these results are growing with additional study.  

“When it comes to quantifying carbon benefits, biofuels have been the most heavily scrutinized products in the world market,” said Don Scott, director of sustainability with the National Biodiesel Board. “This heavy scrutiny and improving analysis provide confidence that biodiesel provides significant benefits over fossil fuels.” 

The CRC, whose members include the American Petroleum Institute, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Daimler, and others, directs engineering and environmental studies pertaining to automotive and petroleum use. Since 2009, the CRC has been organizing biennial workshops to examine lifecycle analysis of biofuels. Each of these four international workshops has included a heavy emphasis on indirect land use change. Increasing global production of food and the resulting land use change caused by national agricultural and renewable energy policies was once thought to be a detriment to the net carbon benefit of biofuel policies. 

To investigate this theory, the CRC has enrolled the world’s leading experts in economic modeling and lifecycle analysis. The U.S. EPA, the U.S. DOE, and the California Air Resources Board, were joined by representatives from the European Commission, environmental advocacy groups, and leading academic institutions from Europe and North America. 

“Whether and how indirect land use change can be accounted for has always been controversial,” said Jan Lewandrowski, an economist for USDA’s Climate Change Program. “With continued improvements to the science behind it, there is clear consensus that it does not override the carbon benefit of renewable fuels. The scientific community’s efforts to improve the data quality and reduce uncertainty within economic modeling shows that the agricultural sector can provide powerful tools to reduce carbon emissions while providing food and fuel to the world. Additionally, regions with renewable natural resources can experience sizable economic benefits by making wise investments in agriculture.”

The growing body of research supporting this conclusion includes noteworthy analysis published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, USEPA, USDA, and the California Air Resources Board. Each of these institutions has affirmed that U.S. biodiesel reduces GHG emissions by at least 50 percent and often as much as 85 percent compared to petroleum diesel fuel.


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