Category Archives: Green House Gases (GHG)

Happy Earth Day! Propel customers reduce CO2 emissions and petroleum use

In honor of Earth Day, we want to say a big THANK YOU to all of our customers who choose renewable fuel—even when it’s not Earth Day. Together, Propel customers have a significant and positive impact on our planet, reducing both harmful emissions and petroleum use. Just check out our Community CleanDrive Report:

Clean Drive Report Customizable

Interested to see your own impact? Any Propel customer can have a personalized CleanDrive report that shows the positive benefits of choosing renewable fuel. Simply register at and start racking up your numbers every time you fill. Plus, each time you track a fill you’ll be entered to win monthly prizes like free fuel and exclusive Propel gear.

What better day to start seeing your positive impact than Earth Day? Sign up now.

EPA aligns with CA emission standards, calling for cleaner cars and cleaner fuel

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released the finalized “Tier 3″ standards for vehicle emissions levels. The standard promises to “quickly and effectively cut harmful soot, smog and toxic emissions from cars and trucks” and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles on the road today, while bringing more fuel-efficient cars and trucks to market. The new standards closely align with emission levels and greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions set forth by the California Air Resources Board, allowing carmakers to focus on meeting one cohesive standard for the entire country.

Together, the federal and California standards will maximize reductions in GHGs, air pollutants and air toxics from cars and light trucks while providing automakers regulatory certainty, streamlining compliance, and reducing costs to consumers.

Tailpipe emission standards will phase in gradually starting in model year 2017 though 2025. The focus is on limiting emissions of non-methane organic gasses (NMOG), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particular matter (PM) for light-duty and some heavy-duty vehicles. All told, the tailpipe standards represent an 80% reduction from today’s average.

In addition, starting in 2017, gasoline refiners will be required to reduce sulfur content to no more than 10 parts per million on an annual average basis. That is a reduction of 60% from the current levels. According to the EPA, the “new low-sulfur gas will provide significant and immediate health benefits because every gas-powered vehicle on the road built prior to these standards will run cleaner – cutting smog-forming NOx emissions by 260,000 tons in 2018.”

The ultimate outcome of the standard will benefit consumers’ pocket books as well as overall public health. The changes promise to save Americans “more than $8,000 by 2025 over a vehicle’s lifetime” in fuel cost—and that adds up: “the fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards covering model year vehicles from 2012-2025 are projected to save American families more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs.” Plus, by cleaning up air pollutants and harmful emissions, “once fully in place, the standards will help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children.”

Renewable fuels play a part in the program too—the program finalizes standards for E85 as an emissions test fuel (for the first time) in Flexible Fuel Vehicles and calls for the standard test gasoline to contain 10% ethanol by volume.

Read more about the EPA’s finalized Tier 3 emission standards.

2012 VW Passat TDI ranks #1 for fuel economy over hybrids

Consumers don’t often consider full-size options when on the hunt for fuel efficient vehicles; however, there is a new class of roomy sedans boasting better fuel economy than previous generations. Motor Trend put three of these super efficient sedans in a head-to-head comparison to see which would come out on top in a miles-per-gallon competition.  The three vehicles compared include two hybrids, 2011 Hyundai Sonata and 2012 Toyota Camry, and one diesel, 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI. After comparing road test mileage, driving experience and design, the VW Passat won hands down.

While the article had positive things to say about both the Hyundai and the Toyota, the Passat took first place by a long shot. With a highway rating of 40 mpg, on one tank of fuel the Passat can cruise the interstate for 740 miles without needing a pitstop. Add in a six-speed manual transmission and that range shoots up to 43 miles per gallon and 796 miles per tank. Overall, Motor Trend concludes that the superior trunk space (no pesky batteries infringing on storage capacity), “the first-rate steering and taut, lively suspension deliver a rewarding, responsive drive that can’t be matched in this group.”

Read more from Motor Trend.

The best part about diesel vehicles? You can run clean, American made biodiesel without any conversion. Find a Propel biodiesel location near you.

Waste Grease Biodiesel Plant for San Francisco

Plans for a biodiesel plant at Pier 92 in San Francisco have finally gained approval from the city’s Port Commission. The plant will produce 10 million gallons of waste-grease biodiesel each year, creating local production jobs as well as locally-produced, renewable fuel.

The plant will be in an old rendering facility run by Darling International, who has been in operation on the pier since the 1960s. The facility is already equipped to create tallow from grease and other waste products. The switch over to biodiesel production will include new odor-regulation devices and alert systems.

Read more from San Francisco Gate.

Volvo to deliver diesel hybrid plug-in for 2012.

Volvo’s plans are still on track to release a Plug-In Diesel Hybrid in 2012. The hybrid will be based on the V60 wagon and is estimated cut CO2 emission in half when compared to emissions of the popular Toyota Prius.

The lithium-ion battery will charge from a household outlet in about five hours with a range of 30 miles and will also feature regenerative braking for added charging. After the electric-range is reached, the diesel engine takes over.

Read more from

Waste fats into renewable Dynamic Fuels

In Geismar, LA, Dynamic Fuels’ production facility is converting non-food grade tallow and other animal fats into ASTM-certified renewable diesel fuel.

The production facility, a joint venture of Syntroleum Corporation and Tyson Foods, Inc., began processing fuel in early October and is currently producing 2,500 barrels a day.

Dynamic’s diesel fuel is made from renewable sources, reducing carbon emissions by  75%. What’s more, the performance specifications outshine petroleum diesel, boasting cetane rating of 88, more than twice that of regular diesel.

Read more from Syntroleum.

Run faster, cleaner? Use E85.

The old rules of racing are being challenged as cleaner and more efficient automotive fuels find their way to the track. Project Green, a group of researchers from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has found that modern fuel-injected engines powered by E-85, outperform the same engine with a carburetor and leaded racing fuel. The cleaner burning fuel injection engines have been replacing carburetors since the 80s, except on the track.

“The testing disproves two widely and firmly held beliefs in the circle track racing community: that carbureted engines are inherently more powerful than engines equipped with a fuel injection system; and that E-85, which is less expensive than leaded racing fuel, is not well-suited as a fuel for race cars”, says Forrest Jehlik, principal mechanical engineer at Argonne’s Center for Transportation Technology.

Read more

US Senator Patty Murray and Propel discuss economic impacts of biodiesel industry

Monday morning, Senator Patty Murray (D – WA) & Propel hosted a press conference to discuss support for the Biodiesel Blenders Tax Credit and its positive impacts on job growth, carbon emissions reduction and national security. Since the tax credit was left to expire in January, US biodiesel production has largely screeched to a halt. As a result, many producers including Imperium Renewables have looked to markets outside of the US to sell its fuel. The industry’s message was clear; renew the tax credit and our industry will immediately increase production, and create jobs.

The event was held at Propel Fuels Clean Fuel Point, the first renewable fuels station in downtown Seattle, Senator Murray was joined by the leaders of companies from up and down the biodiesel value chain (bioscience, refining, production and retail consumer access), who discussed the importance of the extension of the tax credit currently being debated in Congress.

Speakers included Matt Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels, Todd Ellis, VP of Business Development for Imperium Renewables, Dr. Margaret McCormick, COO for Targeted Growth, and Cameron Hewes, President and CEO of General Biodiesel.

Why Wait? New Lamborghini is E85 compatible

No news on the price tag, but Lamborghini aims to make its new generation more efficient, meet a 35 percent CO2 reduction goal and add E85 fuel compatibility.

A post from Car and Driver reports that Lamborghini is working on “stop/start capability to thrift fuel in urban settings, cylinder deactivation—so that both the V-10 and the V-12 can operate on half as many cylinders—E85 compatibility, and possibly even a mild-hybrid solution.”

Lamborghini will also utilize carbon fiber to reduce the weight of the vehicle and offset any weight-gain from incorporating a hybrid system. Lamborghini collaborated with the University of Washington and Boeing to create the Automobili Lamborghini Composite Structures Laboratory (ACSL). Look for further developments in this field as carbon fiber costs are predicted to decline by 2012 – 2014.

Read more about Lamborghini from Car and Driver.

Propel’s 85 cent E85 event a great success

Last Wednesday’s event brought drivers across Sacramento to Propel stations to fill with E85 Flex Fuel for $0.85/gallon. New and returning customers were happy to brave the morning’s stormy weather to fill their tanks with low-carbon, domestically produced E85.

Drivers across the region joined together to reduce approximately 30,000 lbs of CO2 and save over $10,000 at the pump–in just one day!

Propel team members enjoyed meeting new customers at the pumps on Wednesday, as well as catching up with many loyal Propel users. We appreciate all your comments and suggestions on ways to improve customer experience at the pumps.

See more pictures from the event on our Facebook page.

Enterprise’s shuttle fleet to run biodiesel

Enterprise, the largest vehicle rental company in North America, announced plans to fuel their entire airport shuttle fleet of more than 600 buses on biodiesel. Most shuttle buses will begin by using a B5 biodiesel blend, while in nine regions, buses will use a B20 blend with the intention of converting the entire bus fleet to B20 in the next five years.

By switching to biodiesel, the Enterprise fleet will reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of retiring 40 shuttle buses and will reduce petroleum use by 420,000 gallons–in the first year alone.

In California, Propel Fuels and Enterprise have formed a partnership aimed to educate Enterprise customers on the availability and benefits of alternative fuels, and to fuel Enterprise’s rental cars with renewable E85.

Read more from Enterprise.

Waste into power, POET teams up with the city of Sioux Falls

The joint project by leading ethanol producer, POET, and the city of Sioux Falls uses landfill gas to help power POET’s Chancellor, South Dakota ethanol production facility. Methane gas created by the Sioux Falls Regional Sanitary Landfill is transported down an 11-mile pipeline to POET’s biorefinery, helping to power ethanol production.

Methane, a major factor in global warming, is captured, converted and put to use producing process steam for ethanol production–using methane offsets 15 percent of the facility’s  energy needs, reducing overall CO2 emissions by more than 26,000 tons per year.

Revenue from selling methane to POET and subsequent carbon credits, earns an additional 1 million dollars per year for the city of Sioux Falls.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency recognized the innovative work of the POET-Sioux Falls project in an award ceremony for programs that “employed unique project structures and took creative approaches to utilize (landfill gas) from municipal solid waste landfills.” The project will continue to grow as the supply of landfill gases increase, doubling capacity by 2025.

Read more about POET and Sioux Falls.

UC Davis research shows sustainable biomass energy potential for California

A recent article published in California Agriculture illustrates the potential for sustainable biomass energy crops in California.  California Agriculture is a peer-reviewed journal reporting research, reviews and news from the University of California and its Agriculture and Natural Resources division.

Article Abstract
Biomass constitutes a major renewable energy resource for California, with more than 30 million tons per year of in-state production estimated to be available on a sustainable basis for electricity generation, biofuels production and other industrial processing. Annually, biofuel production from these resources could exceed 2 billion gallons of gasoline equivalent, while providing opportunities for agricultural and rural economic development. Continuing research and large-scale demonstrations now under way will test alternative technologies and provide much-needed information regarding costs and environmental performance. Biomass can help meet state goals for increasing the amounts of electricity and fuels from renewable resources under the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), and can similarly help meet national biofuel targets under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Internationally consistent sustainability standards and practices are needed to inform policy and provide direction and guidance to industry.

>> Read More

Article Authors
Bryan M. Jenkins, UC Davis
Robert B. Williams, UC Davis
Nathan Parker, UC Davis
Peter Tittmann, UC Davis
Quinn Hart, UC Davis
Martha C. Gildart, UC Davis
Steve Kaffka, UC Davis
Bruce R. Hartsough, UC Davis
Peter Dempster, UC Davis

1000 Acres of Next Generation Fuel


Cellulosic feedstock projects are beginning to scale in size and frequency. An example of this is the 1,000 acre switchgrass plot in Oklahoma, now in its second year. The project is led by the Ardmore-based Noble Foundation, and strands are reaching 3 ft in height.
Unlike corn, switchgrass doesn’t need to be replanted each year. It also takes less tractor-fuel and fertilizer to produce, can be grown on marginal land and doesn’t require as much water.

Read More

Fulcrum Advances Ethanol from Waste

fulcrum_sierraHigh quality biodiesel refined from waste sources is becoming common, and has the lowest carbon footprint of any liquid fuel. In fact, much of the biodiesel sold by Propel, the highest-quality clean fuel available, comes from recycled fats and oils. And now strides are being made in waste-to-ethanol production through advances by companies like Fulcrum Bioenergy. Fulcrum is working to derive commercial-scale ethanol from municipal waste — and recently ran their first demo proving they are on their way to reaching that goal.

The successful demonstration has spurred the development of commercial scale production. Construction on Fulcrum’s municipal solid waste to ethanol plant, Sierra BioFuels, is set to begin this year. Located in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, in the City of McCarran, Storey County, Nevada, the plant will convert 90,000 tons of MSW into 10.5 million gallons of ethanol per year.
More from NY Times

More on Fulcrum

Fuel Efficiency and Performance Drive Diesel Comeback

With revived concern over the cost of gasoline and the desire for increased fuel economy, clean diesels are proving to be a tempting choice for the American consumer.

2010GolfTDIVolkswagen can testify to the selling power of clean diesel vehicles–June brought in the highest sales of TDIs since the release of the current lineup. According to a recent press release, “the Jetta SportWagen once again posted its best sales month ever with sales of 1,982 units. Clean diesel TDI’s accounted for 81 percent of SportWagen sales, 40 percent of Jetta sedan sales, and 29 percent of Touareg sales.” Adding to their fleet of available clean diesels, Volkswagen plans the release of the 2010 Golf TDI this fall.

ThreeJettaFill_SLUPositive sales from Volkswagen may lure more manufacturers to bring diesel technology to the American market. In fact, manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes already offer diesel models.

Volkwagen TDI drivers are often strong supporters of alternatitive fuels. Seen here at the Propel SLU Station is the 2007 and 2004 Jetta TDI, and 2005 Jetta TDI Wagon.

NPR Home PageToday’s clean diesel vehicles are not the smog-belching, clickity-clacking diesel vehicles you may be picturing. New diesels have quieter engines, enhanced performance and reduced emissions. A recent segment on National Public Radio, Diesel Cars Attempt a Comeback with Clean Diesels, reports on the reemergence of diesel vehicles into the American market as a quieter, cleaner next generation.

Cutting-edge fuel cell vehicles roll into Propel’s downtown Seattle station

FuelCell3_crowdOn Monday, June 1st, Propel hosted Seattle’s first Hydrogen Vehicle Show at the Downtown Seattle Clean Fuel Point. As part of the 28-city, Hydrogen Road Tour, the event previewed the latest hydrogen fuel cell vehicle designs and provided information on how fuel cells fit into our nation’s clean transportation future. All vehicles on displayed have the potential to provide the range, efficiency and performance consumers expect — with zero tailpipe emissions.


“Propel’s fueling platform delivers advanced low-carbon fuels including biodiesel from waste stream feedstocks like recycled fats and oils, and locally grown, marginal land crops like camelina,” said Rob Elam, President and Co-Founder of Propel speaking of the event on Monday. “Our fueling platform has the forward-flexibility to accommodate advanced fuels such as bio-methane, hydrogen and electric charging as these vehicle technologies gain momentum in the marketplace. Today’s event shows how close these vehicles are to commercialization.”


Fuel cell vehicles from top manufacturers, including Daimler, GM, Honda, VW, and more, were showcased at the event. Fuel cell vehicles are electric vehicles that generate their electricity from hydrogen stored in a tank, instead of recharging from the grid. Fuel cells are also used in transit buses, forklifts, airport tugs, as back-up power for data centers, and as primary power for buildings.

“The Hydrogen Road Tour showcases the progress of hydrogen programs in the U.S. and Canada,” said California Fuel Cell Partnership executive director Catherine Dunwoody. 


One of the tour support vehicles, the Volkswagen V10 Touareg TDI filling with Propel B20 Biodiesel.

“These vehicles are comfortable, perform great, refuel in minutes and will travel the distance with zero tailpipe emissions, zero petroleum and greatly reduced greenhouse gases. Thousands of people will get a chance to try these vehicles for themselves.” 

Propel partnered with the California Fuel Cell Partnership, California Air Resources Board (CARB), National Hydrogen Association, US Fuel Cell Council and Powertech Labs to organize the event.

Diesel hybrid, Peugeot engineers progress

peugeot_3008A step beyond conventional hybrids, Peugeot gears up for production of the new HYbrid4 hybrid diesel 4WD prototype. The 3008 HYbrid4 crossover vehicle is scheduled for release to the European market summer 2011. Similar to the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight concept, the 3008 HYbrid4 will use regenerative power from braking to charge a lithium battery pack for the rear wheels and the diesel engine to drive the front wheels.

Register Hardware‘s Car Tech explains, that “the benefits of this system are many: the electric motor can be used either as a power boost; as sole motive power when pootling around town at low speed; to provide four-wheel drive without the usual drive shafts and differentials; or to cut fuel consumption on the open road.”

The diesel-electric technology will not only provide better fuel economy with an expect 68 mpg, but also reduce carbon emissions by up to 35%, according to Peugeot

Read more about HYbrid4 technology from AutoBlog Green.

Mercedes outfits new E 250 diesel sedan for North American market

On display at the New York Auto Show, the Mercedes E 250 BlueTEC concept is designed specifically for release in States, meeting all the strictest emission standards including U.S. Bin 5 compliance. 

Mercedes estimates ratings of 28 mpg city and 39 mpg highway from the EPA.

More E 250 stats.

Propel Fuels Showcases Next Generation Green Diesel at California Diesel Days

bosch_neste_2Propel Fuels, in partnership with Bosch and Neste Oil, helped power California Diesel Days with next generation NExBTL green diesel. Green diesel, also known as renewable diesel, is a synthetic diesel product derived from bio-based oils and fats, and is suitable for use in all diesel motors. This renewable alternative to petroleum improves air quality by reducing particle emissions and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Several of the top-end diesel vehicles displayed at Diesel Days ran on NExBTL.


On display were advanced clean diesels from serveral manufacturers: Mercedes-Benz ML 320 and GL 320, BMW 335d and X5, Audi Q7 and A3 diesel and from Volkswagen, the Jetta TDI and V6 Touareg TDI. 

diesel_days_lineup California Diesel Days brought together automotive industry, state government, and environmental organization representatives focusing on clean diesel passanger vehicle technology. The conference topics included CO2 reduction strategies for California, the latest clean vehicle technologies, and the future of Clean Diesel passenger vehicles. 

More on Propel’s participation in California Diesel Days.

States Logistics’ fleet reduces harmful emissions with the use of biodiesel


With seven diesel vehicles running on biodiesel blends, California-based company, States Logistics was able to reduce the fleet’s CO2 output by over 72 tons! Three vehicles ran on B99 while four ran on a B5 biodiesel blend. The company’s lifecycle carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction demonstration was facilitated by the National Biodiesel Board over a six month period.

“The B99 trucks (three-axle International model 8600) ran 48,198 miles and consumed 8,770 gallons over the six month period. The equivalent straight petroleum diesel output would have been 89.9 tons, but with B99, the output was 19.8 tons for a savings of 70.1 tons. The B5 fleet (two-axle flat bed) traveled 61,433 miles and consumed 7,090 gallons of B5. Equivalent petroleum CO2 output would have been 71.4, with B5 the output was reduced to 68.6 for 2.8 tons of CO2 reduction. In addition to CO2 reduction, an estimated 119 pounds of particulate matter were eliminated from the exhaust during the six month period. Carbon monoxide (CO) was reduced by over 500 pounds, hydrocarbons (HC) by over 50 pounds, and sulfur dioxide (SO2) by close to 40 pounds. “


States Logistics looks forward to sharing the results of this demonstration with customers to show the positive impact of using biodiesel. Ryan Donovan, VP of Operations and Business Development of States Logistics, says, “we all benefit from having this information available to show the efforts being made to reduce carbon footprint throughout the supply chain.” 

Read more from the NBB and

BMW 116d to arrive in U.S. next year


BMW’s ultra-efficient 116d joins the ranks of the 1-series diesels released in Europe.  Reported mileage is 53.5 miles per gallon with less CO2 emissions than Europe’s 2008 “Green Car of the Year,” the BMW 188d, making the 116d the most efficient BMW on the market. And it’s expected to arrive in the States by 2010! Read more from Autoblog Green.

Propel CleanDrive featured in The Washington Post “Cars & Fuels of the Future”

Special Pumps Help Drivers Track Emissions Reductions


FlexFuel. Biodiesel. Hydrogen. Electric. E85, B20, B99.

You’re going to be seeing more vehicles in 2009 that can run on these types of environmentally friendly fuels.

But how do you really know how much good you’re doing for the environment when you use these fuels? Propel Fuels, based in Sacramento, plans to roll out hundreds of self-serve alternative fuel pumps, mostly placing them at existing gas stations. The pumps, connected to a central network, enable consumers to see just how much they are helping the environment with each full-up. A dozen Clean Fuel Points – stand-alone alternative fuel stations – already operate in California and Washington state, with more slated to open on the West Coast.

rocklin_flexfuelThe “carbon footprint” of renewable fuels, such as E85 ethanol mixtures and biodiesel, is smaller than petroleum. So each time you fill up at a Propel pump, the CleanDrive system calculates your carbon emissions reductions—whether it’s your first tank or one of many over the course of a year. The application has several ways of showing the impact: it calculates the amount you have saved in carbon emissions and oil, as well as the equivalent annual impact of mature trees, which consume carbon dioxide.

CleanDrive tracks carbon reductions for individuals, companies and business fleets—even neighborhoods.

Here’s an example: Seattle resident Troy Johnson has been a CleanDrive user since 2007 and, so far, has reduced his carbon emissions by 22,000 pounds, according to his CleanDrive report. You can see a sample report by going to

“As an alternative fuel consumer, inherently you believe you’re doing the right thing,” Johnson said. “With CleanDrive, I can see my contribution. It makes using these fuels more meaningful.”

For more information, go to or email

Mercedes BlueTEC SUVs get credit

Mercedes-Benz three new BLUETEC SUVs now qualify for the Advanced Lean Burn Technology Motor Vehicle income tax credit.

  • 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL 320 BlueTEC $1,800
  • 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML 320 BlueTEC $900
  • 2009 Mercedes-Benz R 320 BlueTEC $1,550

Visit DOE to see all deisel models that qualitfy for credit, including the Jetta TDI

B20 performance shines in Challenge X Competition

With the Challenge X Competition, GM posed university students across the US with a challenge: How do you re-engineer a Chevrolet Equinox Crossover SUV to maximize fuel efficiency and minimize pollution? Their answer: direct-injection diesel engine fueled by B20 biodiesel. In fact, all three of the top placing teams in GMs Challenge X Competition employed B20 biodiesel. Read more at the daily green.

The team’s turbocharged direct-injection diesel engine fueled by B20 biodiesel was 38% more fuel-efficient than the original, produced 44% less pollution but managed to improve quarter-mile acceleration by 1.6 seconds.

Diesel’s Encore in the US

New York Times outlines pros and cons of new diesels coming to the US market in 2008 – 2010. Article notes new arrivals from VW, Audi, Mercedes, Acura, Nissan, Jeep and others.

A snapshot below. Read more


  • Mileage is 25 percent to 40 percent higher than gasoline.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions are lower.
  • Highway mileage and performance are better than hybrids’.
  • High torque is well suited to large pickups and S.U.V.’s.
  • Extended driving range means less frequent fill-ups.
  • Engines are robust, often lasting 300,000 miles or more.
  • Engines and emissions systems can be costly.
  • Diesel fuel currently costs far more than gasoline.
  • Like gasoline, diesel is a petroleum product from foreign suppliers.
  • Though outdated, image as a dirty technology lingers.
  • Only 42 percent of American filling stations have diesel pumps.
  • Some companies’ latest emissions controls require refills of urea.

CleanDrive members on the cutting edge

CleanDrive Report Screenshot

Are you a CleanDrive member? If so, you are at the forefront of a movement towards tracking and monitoring you carbon footprint. A recent New York Times article discusses how visibility into our carbon output will become a part of our lives, and influence behavior for the better. From thermostat price monitors, to eco-mood jewelry – the article outlines several ways carbon savings, or lack thereof, will be worn on our sleeve. Have a read:

So if you haven’t already, register for CleanDrive and be at the head of the carbon tracking revolution. Review you report with your family, or show your customers. It’s a powerful thing to see how your choice to use biodiesel is making a change for the better. Combined the Propel community has saved nearly 1 million pounds of CO2. Now that’s powerful.

Register for CleanDrive:

Check your CleanDrive account:

GREET model not properly applied in recent biofuels studies. Michael Wang of Argonne Labs responds to Science Mag study

Michael Wang of Argonne’s Transportation Technology R&D Center and Zia Haq of the Department of Energy’s Office of Biomass respond to the article by Searchinger et al. in the February 7, 2008, Sciencexpress, “Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases through Emissions from Land Use Change”


Letter to Science

Michael Wang

Center for Transportation Research

Argonne National Laboratory

Zia Haq

Office of Biomass Program

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy U.S. Department of Energy


The article by Searchinger et al. in Sciencexpress (“Use of U.S.

Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases through Emissions from Land Use Change,” February 7, 2008) provides a timely discussion of fuel ethanol’s effects on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when taking into account GHG emissions from potential land use changes induced by ethanol production.

Land use change issues associated with biofuels were explored in life-cycle analyses beginning in early 1990s (Delucchi 1991). In general, the land use changes that occur as a result of biofuel production can be separated into two categories: direct and indirect.

Direct land use changes involve direct displacement of land for farming of the feedstocks needed for biofuel production. Indirect land use changes are those made to accommodate farming of food commodities in other places in order to maintain the global food supply and demand balance.

Searchinger et al. used the GREET model developed by one of us at Argonne National Laboratory in their study (see Wang 1999). They correctly stated that the GREET model includes GHG emissions from direct land use changes associated with corn ethanol production; the emissions estimates in GREET are based on land use changes modeled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1999 for an annual production of 4 billion gallons of corn ethanol in the United States by 2010. Needless to say, the ethanol production level simulated by USDA in 1999 has been far exceeded by actual ethanol production – about 6 billion gallons in

2007 (Renewable Fuels Association 2008). Thus, the resultant GHG emissions from land use changes provided in the current GREET version need to be updated. Argonne, and several other organizations, recently began to address both direct and indirect land use changes associated with future, much-expanded U.S. biofuel production. Such an effort requires expansion and use of general equilibrium models at the global scale.

Many critical factors determine GHG emission outcomes of land use changes. First, we need to clearly define a baseline for global food supply and demand and cropland availability without the U.S. biofuel program. It is not clear to us what baseline Searchinger et al. defined in their modeling study.

Searchinger et al. modeled a case in which U.S. corn ethanol production increased from 15 billion gallons a year to 30 billion gallons a year by 2015. However, in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), Congress established an annual corn ethanol production cap of 15 billion gallons by 2015. Congress established the cap – based on its awareness of the resource limitations for corn ethanol production – to help prevent dramatic land use changes. Thus, Searchinger et al. examined a corn ethanol production case that is not directly relevant to U.S. corn ethanol production in the next seven years.

Corn yield per acre is a key factor in determining the total amount of land needed for a given level of corn ethanol production. It is worth noting that U.S. corn yield per acre has steadily increased – nearly 800% in the past 100 years (Perlack et al. 2005). Between 1980 (the beginning of the U.S. corn ethanol program) and 2006, per-acre corn yield in the United States has increased at an annual rate of 1.6% (Wang et al. 2007). Seed companies are developing better corn seeds that resist drought and pests and use nitrogen more efficiently. Corn yield could increase at an annual rate of 2% between now and 2020 and beyond (Korves 2007). Despite these trends, Searchinger et al. used a constant corn yield, assuming that low yields from corn fields converted from marginal land would offset increased yields in existing corn fields. A more accurate approach would be to use the increased yields in existing corn fields, determine how much additional land was required for corn farming in the United States, and then use the corresponding yield of the new corn fields (some of which could be converted from marginal land). Searchinger et al. further assumed constant corn yield in other countries, many of which have lower corn yields and, consequently, greater potential for increased yields.

Searchinger et al. also assumed that distillers’ grains and solubles

(DGS) from corn ethanol plants would displace corn on a pound-for-pound basis. The one-to-one displacement ratio between DGS and corn fails to recognize that the protein content of DGS is much higher than that of corn (28% vs. 9%). The actual displacement value of DGS is estimated to be at least 23% higher than that assumed by Searchinger et al.

(Klopfenstein et al. 2008).

Searchinger et al. estimated that U.S. corn ethanol production (between

15 billion and 30 billion gallons) would result in an additional 10.8 million hectares of crop land worldwide: 2.8 million hectares in Brazil, 2.3 million hectares in China and India, and 2.2 million hectares in the United States, and the remaining hectares in other countries. The researchers maintain that the United States has already experienced a 62% reduction in corn exports. Actually, U.S. corn exports have fluctuated around the 2-billion-bushel-a-year level since 1980. In 2007, when U.S. corn ethanol production increased dramatically, its corn exports increased to 2.45 billion bushels – a 14% increase from the 2006 level. This increase was accompanied by a significant increase in DGS exports by the United States – from 0.6 million metric tons in 1997 to 3 million metric tons in 2007.

Searchinger et al. had to decide what land use changes would be needed in Brazil, the United States, China, and India to meet their simulated requirement for 10.8 million hectares of new crop land. With no data or modeling, Searchinger et al. used the historical land use changes that occurred in the 1990s in individual countries to predict future land use changes in those countries (2015 and beyond). This assumption is seriously flawed by predicting deforestation in the Amazon and conversion of grassland into crop land in China, India, and the United States. The fact is, deforestation rates have already declined through legislation in Brazil and elsewhere. In China, contrary to the Searchinger et al. assumptions, efforts have been made in the past ten years to convert marginal crop land into grassland and forest land in order to prevent soil erosion and other environmental problems.

In estimating the GHG emissions payback period for corn ethanol, Searchinger et al. relied on the 20% reduction in GHG emissions that is provided in the GREET model for the current ethanol industry. Future corn ethanol plants could improve their energy efficiency by avoiding DGS drying (in some ethanol plants) or switching to energy sources other than natural gas or coal, either of which would result in greater GHG emissions reductions for corn ethanol (Wang et al. 2007). Searchinger et al. failed to address this potential for increased efficiency in ethanol production.

In one of the sensitivity cases, Searchinger et al. examined cellulosic ethanol production from switchgrass grown on land converted from corn farms. Cellulosic biomass feedstocks for ethanol production could come from a variety of sources. Oak Ridge National Laboratory completed an extensive assessment of biomass feedstock availability for biofuel production (Perlack et al. 2005). With no conversion of crop land in the United States, the study concludes that more than 1 billion tons of biomass resources are available each year from forest growth and by-products, crop residues, and perennial energy crops on marginal land.

In fact, in the same issue of Sciencexpress as the Searchinger et al.

study is published, Fargione et al. (2008) show beneficial GHG results for cellulosic ethanol.

On the basis of our own analyses, production of corn-based ethanol in the United States so far results in moderate GHG emissions reductions.

There has also been no indication that U.S. corn ethanol production has so far caused indirect land use changes in other countries because U.S. corn exports have been maintained at about 2 billion bushels a year and because U.S. DGS exports have steadily increased in the past ten years.

U.S. corn ethanol production is expected to expand rapidly over the next few years – to 15 billion gallons a year by 2015. It remains to be seen whether and how much direct and indirect land use changes will occur as a result of U.S. corn ethanol production.

The Searchinger et al. study demonstrated that indirect land use changes are much more difficult to model than direct land use changes. To do so adequately, researchers must use general equilibrium models that take into account the supply and demand of agricultural commodities, land use patterns, and land availability (all at the global scale), among many other factors. Efforts have only recently begun to address both direct and indirect land use changes (see Birur et al. 2007). At this time, it is not clear what land use changes could occur globally as a result of U.S. corn ethanol production. While scientific assessment of land use change issues is urgently needed in order to design policies that prevent unintended consequences from biofuel production, conclusions regarding the GHG emissions effects of biofuels based on speculative, limited land use change modeling may misguide biofuel policy development.



Birur, D.K., T.W. Hertel, and W.E. Tyner, 2007, The Biofuel Boom: The Implications for the World Food Markets, presented at the Food Economy Conference, the Hague, the Netherlands, Oct. 18-19.

Delucchi, M.A., 1991, Emissions of Greenhouse Gases from the Use of Transportation Fuels and Electricity, ANL/ESD/TM-22, Volume 1, Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill., Nov.

Fargione, J., J. Hill, D. Tilman, S. Polasky, and P. Hawthorne, 2008, “Land Cleaning and Biofuel Carbon Debt,” Sciencexpress, available at, Feb. 7.

Klopfenstein, T. J., G.E. Erickson, and V.R. Bremer, 2008, “Use of Distillers’ By-Products in the Beef Cattle Feeding Industry,”

forthcoming in Journal of Animal Science.

Korves, R., 2007, The Potential Role of Corn Ethanol in Meeting the Energy Needs of the United States in 2016-2030, prepared for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Pro-Exporter Network, Dec.

Perlack, R.D., L.L. Wright, A. Turhollow, R.L. Graham, B. Stokes, and D.C. Urbach, 2005, Biomass as Feedstock for Bioenergy and Bioproducts

Industry: the Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply, prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ORNL/TM-2005/66, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., April.

RFA (Renewable Fuels Association), 2008, Industry Statistics, available at http://www., accessed Feb. 13, 2008.

Searchinger, T., R. Heimlich, R.A. Houghton, F. Dong, A. Elobeid, J.

Fabiosa, S. Tokgoz, D. Hayes, and T.H. Yu, 2008, “Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases through Emissions from Land Use Change,” Sciencexpress, available at, Feb. 7.

Wang, M., 1999, GREET 1.5 – Transportation Fuel-Cycle Model, Volume 1:

Methodology, Development, Use, and Results, ANL/ESD-39, Volume 1, Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill., Aug.

Wang, M, M. Wu, and H. Hong, 2007, “Life-Cycle Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emission Impacts of Different Corn Ethanol Plant Types,” Environmental Research Letter, 2: 024001 (13 pages).

Leading the World in Gasoline Consumption

 From The Economist Via AutoBlogGreen

Dr. Weil is Onboard with Biodiesel

 Arizona Daily Star reports:

Dr. Andrew Weil — the world-famous physician who works to heal our bodies as naturally as possible — is now doing his part to try to heal a polluted planet.
While the rest of us belch toxic crap out of our cars at three-plus dollars a gallon, Weil can hardly believe how well this bio thing really works. So well that he wants to form a co-op and offer this golden moonshine to any and all takers in Tucson. “I’ve always written and taught that it’s very difficult to be healthy in an unhealthy world,” said Weil, explaining why he’s gone into the backyard brewing business.

A pioneer at combining mainstream medicine with alternative therapies, Weil founded the integrative medicine program at the University of Arizona and has written numerous best-sellers on the topic.

“We have to be very immediately concerned about finding solutions for the toxic effects the combustion engine has on human health,” he said.