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Carbon-Neutral Biofuels Could Now Compete With Petroleum

Updated: Mar 26

Biofuels could take a big bite out of the world’s transportation emissions, especially aviation. But they are currently expensive and, to make matters even less attractive, are made from certain food crops, creating a food vs. fuel dilemma.

Aeroplane flying through clouds

But the good news is that scientists have come up with a new non-food fuel refinery system to produce economical, sustainable biofuels from woody plant matter such as agricultural and forestry waste.

“The key advance of our study is to demonstrate a biomass to biofuels strategy that can simultaneously achieve both economic viability and carbon neutral operation,” says Charles Cai, a chemical and environmental engineering professor at University of California Riverside.

The team’s analysis, published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, shows that a next-generation bio-refinery based on this technology could produce sustainable aviation fuels at market-competitive prices as low as $3.15 per gallon.

Cars, trucks, ships, trains, and airplanes generate about a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations. Electrifying these modes of transport is an ongoing effort worldwide. But biofuels offer a near-term solution to reduce carbon emissions from transportation - by simply replacing fossil fuels. Biofuels from renewable sources could be used in today’s engines and distributed using existing infrastructure. And the fact that this new biofuel is made from non-food sources makes it a potential win win.


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