An increase in the production of ethanol for use by the global transport industry could reduce worldwide carbon emissions dramatically, says a new scientific study. Scania already has the sustainable solutions to take advantage of this.
It has long been considered that ethanol is the most viable biofuel for use in heavy goods vehicles. It is produced in larger quantities than any other biofuel and, it has been suggested, with the right management it could in time replace oil.
“Ethanol is widely available,” says Urban Wästljung from Scania Public and Sustainable Affairs. “And the industry knows how to manage ethanol production sustainably. Of course it is generally more expensive than crude oil, but it has strong carbon reduction potential and it is cost-effective in reducing CO2.”
Scania has been producing vehicles that can run on ethanol for more than 30 years. “Scania has a technology which makes it possible for ED95, which is ethanol blended with an ignition improver, to run a diesel engine,” says Wästljung.
Paris will prohibit the use of diesel
And as sustainability becomes an imperative for business models, ethanol is likely to become an increasingly in-demand energy solution. The city of Paris for example will prohibit the use of diesel by 2020.
The most efficient raw material used in the production of ethanol is sugarcane and the world’s most sustainable sugarcane producer is Brazil, which is also widely believed to have the world’s first sustainable biofuel economy. There is also a major potential for using residual material from sugarcane production.
As far back as 1976 the Brazilian government made it compulsory for the transportation industry to blend anhydrous ethanol with gasoline. There are now no longer any light vehicles in Brazil running on pure gasoline.
Ethanol produced from sugarcane is more efficient than maize ethanol, which is largely produced in the US, and generates only 14 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions of petroleum, says Amanda DeSouza, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois and the University of São Paulo and one of the authors of a new scientific study published in the Nature Climate Change journal.
Advocates sugarcane production
The report also states that sugarcane production in Brazil for conversion to ethanol could reduce current global carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 5.6 percent. The report therefore advocates the conversation of hundreds of thousands of square miles (more than the combined land area of Texas and California) of land in Brazil to sugarcane.
This, the report suggests, could be done without touching environmentally sensitive areas, while carbon-related costs of converting the land have been included in the analysis.
Jonas Strömberg, Scania’s Director of Sustainable Solutions, adds that Europe could also play a bigger part in ethanol production. “There are over 25 million hectares of abandoned farmland that could be used for further ethanol and biodiesel production,” he says. “This would greatly enhance the EU’s energy security by replacing oil imports from unstable and non-democratic countries. It could also help ethanol replace almost all of the diesel used in the heavy-duty transport sector. Technology is not the problem.”