Most cars, trucks and buses today run on gasoline and diesel, the same fuels used to power the Model T, the first mass produced car. Petroleum products are dirty and dangerous--they severely impact our health, our security and our climate. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Today we have access to safer, cleaner fuels and policies designed to reduce oil use in the U.S.

Types of clean fuels

  • Electricity is one of the cleanest ways to power transportation. Advances in electric vehicle technology, paired with an increasingly clean grid, mean electricity is now less polluting than even the most efficient gasoline cars and a viable clean fuel source for millions of drivers.
  • Ethanol or ethyl alcohol, is the most common type of biofuel, comprising ten percent of almost all the gasoline sold in the United States. Most ethanol produced in the United States is made from corn, but ethanol is also made at large scale from sugarcane, especially in Brazil, and can also be made from non—food resources such as cellulosic biomass.
  • Biodiesel is a renewable fuel derived from vegetable oil or animal fats that can be blended into conventional diesel. On average, biodiesel accounted for about 4% of diesel in 2017.
  • Biomethane, also known as biogas, is a potential substitute for natural gas derived from decomposing organic matter, and abundantly available in landfills, wastewater treatment centers, and dairies.

Benefits of clean fuels

In 2016, transportation surpassed electricity generation to become the largest source of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for more than a third of the global warming emissions. Clean fuels have the potential to significantly reduce the dangerous amount of heat-trapping gases and air pollutants we emit yearly, and that affect our climate and our health.

In places like California that have a cleaner electric grid, driving an electric car is equivalent to getting over 100 miles per gallon in a gasoline-powered car. Thanks to improved battery-technologies and cleaner grids, this number continues to climb.

The most common biofuels in use today, corn ethanol and soy biodiesel, are less polluting than the petroleum components of gasoline and diesel with which they are blended, and the best examples of biofuels can be much cleaner. However, the agricultural resources available to make biofuels are limited, and expanding some of these resources can cause environmental problems, so biofuel growth must be constrained by available resources.

Clean fuel policies

Low-Carbon Fuel Standard Program (LCFS) is a program designed to help California meet its global warming emissions reduction goals and boost innovation for cleaner transportation fuels. Established in 2009 and extended in 2018, the LCFS has a goal of reducing the carbon intensity of the state’s fuel mix by 20% by 2030. To comply with the law, petroleum refiners and importers can either blend low-carbon biofuels into the fuel they sell, buy credits generated by low-carbon fuel producers and users, or both. Oregon has a similar policy called a Clean Fuel Program, which began implementation in 2016, and other states are considering implementing similar policies

Renewable Fuel Standard Program (RFS) is a federal program designed to expand the nation’s renewable fuels while reducing the country’s dependence on imported oil. It requires a steadily growing volume of renewable fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel, and cellulosic biofuels to be used each year.

Other Fuels Related Policies: Many other policies directly and indirectly influence the market for biofuels, from grants and other support for research and innovation to tax credits that support the deployment of early stage technology to fuel and vehicle standards and regulations can restrict or encourage the use of biofuels.

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