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Ethanol: The Perfect Fuel for Earth Day

April 20, 2023

Events, RFA News


By Mikayla McKenna, Communications Manager


On Saturday we celebrate Earth Day, which is the perfect time to highlight the many benefits ethanol offers the environment and spotlight RFA’s vision: to help the world breathe easier with the power of renewable fuels.


Most people already know ethanol has a track record of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by around 50%, which in itself is a significant benefit for the environment. This past February, RFA released an analysis that found that the greenhouse gas emissions reductions achieved under the Renewable Fuel Standard far exceed the GHG savings originally projected by EPA. The use of biofuels under the RFS program resulted in cumulative savings of more than 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent GHG emissions, the largest share of GHG reductions being from corn ethanol.


In July 2021, RFA’s vision became more evident when our member producers pledged to produce ethanol with net-zero carbon emissions, on average, by 2050 or sooner. They also are committed to achieving an average carbon reduction of 70 percent compared to gasoline by 2030.


RFA picked up speed on the road to net-zero in 2022, releasing a report showing a workable roadmap how we can get there, with a study that identified the five actions that constitute a “core pathway” to net-zero emissions: renewable energy use by corn and ethanol producers, expanded adoption of corn kernel fiber fermentation at dry mills, ‘better-than-business-as-usual’ industry-wide efficiency improvements and ethanol yields, carbon capture and sequestration by ethanol facilities, and expansion of conservation tillage and other low-carbon practices by corn growers.


In addition to reducing GHG emissions, ethanol is the best tool available to reduce tailpipe emissions of other harmful pollutants. Adding ethanol to gasoline reduces tailpipe emissions of the following pollutants, among others:

  • Carbon monoxide, which can cause harmful health effects by reducing oxygen delivery to the body’s organs.
  • Exhaust hydrocarbons, which contribute to ozone, irritate the eyes, damage the lungs, and aggravate respiratory problems.
  • Air toxics like benzene, which can cause cancer and reproductive effects or birth defects.
  • Fine particulate matter, which can pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs, causing serious health effects.

 A 2021 study shows that the use of ethanol-blended fuels results in fewer toxic emissions from vehicles and presents a lower risk to human health than regular gasoline. The study, by the Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota and the Energy Resources Center, University of Illinois Chicago, demonstrates that gasoline containing ethanol produces lower emissions of toxic chemicals known to cause cancer.


Every day our producers are working towards bettering the environment, reducing GHG emissions, and providing consumers with a clean-burning renewable fuel.  On Saturday, celebrate our beautiful Earth by fueling with ethanol—whether you choose the E10, E15 or E85 blend!