Liquid Fuels Still Matter
June 20, 2023
Written By Jon Ihler
If you thought efforts to reduce carbon emissions in transportation were limited to electric vehicles, that would be understandable given the press coverage EVs have received in recent years. The reality is that a broad mix of sustainable energy, including liquid fuels, will play a pivotal role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, especially in agriculture.
Biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel burn cleaner than conventional gasoline and diesel fuel and are readily available from a wide range of fuel suppliers like MFA Oil. Our cooperative has a long history of backing these renewable fuels, providing a valuable market for corn and soybeans grown throughout our trade territory. We’ve sold ethanol since the 1980s and biodiesel since 1993. Additionally, MFA Oil is a part-owner of Mid-America Biofuels, a biodiesel production facility in Mexico, Mo.
Independent research shows how biofuels are well on their way to helping the United States reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, corn-based ethanol provides 44% greenhouse gas (GHG) savings compared to gasoline, even when unverifiable emissions from direct and indirect land-use changes are included.
Like ethanol, biodiesel and renewable diesel offer affordable, low-carbon solutions to immediately improve sustainability. These clean fuels are available now and work in existing or new diesel equipment to provide immediate carbon reductions. Biodiesel and renewable diesel reduce GHG emissions by at least 50% compared to petroleum diesel. Depending on the feedstock used, biodiesel and renewable diesel can reduce emissions by more than 80%.
If you’re unfamiliar with renewable diesel, it is predominantly made from soybean oil, just like biodiesel, but produced using a different process. The result is a diesel fuel chemically identical to petroleum diesel that can support today’s modern agriculture, construction and over-the-road trucking needs.
Renewable diesel has experienced increased demand in states with carbon credit markets. Generous policy environments for renewable diesel credits have led to new stand-alone facilities, conversions of existing refinery units and coprocessing with fossil fuels at existing refineries. A report, “The State of Sustainable Fleets–2023 Market Brief,” showed domestic renewable diesel production doubled from 800 million gallons in 2021 to more than 1.7 billion gallons in 2022.
While other vegetable oils can be used, biodiesel and renewable diesel production primarily rely on soybean oil. Further growth would require increases in soybean production and crushing capacity.
Nearly 20 years ago, the ethanol boom generated substantial support for corn farmers. Could we see a similar impact with soybeans from the combined forces of biodiesel and renewable diesel? Time will tell.
Despite media fixation on electrification, we know our owners and customers will rely on liquid fuels for the foreseeable future. No matter where the fuels industry is headed, MFA Oil is devoted to providing products that best meet your needs. That’s our continued commitment to you.