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Energy at a Glance: Ethanol and Biodiesel

July 22, 2022

Accounting for its effects on fuel economy, air quality, and food prices, biofuels likely produce net harms on balance.

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Quick Bullets:

  • Ethanol and biodiesel are biofuels made from agricultural products.
  • Ethanol has a lower energy density than gasoline, which means vehicles get fewer miles per gallon.
  • Per unit of equivalent energy, ethanol produces more carbon dioxide than normal gasoline.
  • Ethanol use in gasoline spiked after the banning of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) and the passage of the 2005 Renewable Fuel Standard program, from 1.5 percent of gasoline consumption in 2002 to 10.3 percent in 2020. 
  • Ethanol fuels produce more nitrogen oxides (NOx) and other air pollutants, which contribute to worsening air pollution, especially in summer months.

For the full paper, see the attachment!

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Linnea Lueken is a Research Fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy.