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Make Your Transportation Habits More Renewable

Posted: January 12, 2016

Tips for Pennsylvanians wanting to go renewable.

Transportation uses about 24% of all energy use in Pennsylvania, in the form of gasoline, diesel fuel (trucks and trains), and airplane fuel. Currently, gasoline is about 10% renewable (due to blended ethanol) and diesel is 2% renewable (due to blended biodiesel). However, there are a few ways that you can increase the renewable component of your vehicle use. Here are two worth considering.

Use E85 in your flex-fuel car

If you own a "flex fuel" car, your vehicle can easily utilize a blend of up to 85% ethanol (called "E85) as fuel. This is an easy way to dramatically increase your renewable energy use. However, E85 gas pumps are not widely available everywhere - check websites such as the Alternative Fuels Data Center to see if one is available near you.

  • cost to implement: $0 if you already own a flex-fuel vehicle
  • annual expense: varies depending on fuel use, cost of E85 relative to gasoline, and vehicle performance, but additional cost will probably range from 0 to 30%. At current prices, this would correspond to about $730 per year for a typical Pennsylvania household.
  • fossil fuel savings: The average household would reduce its fossil fuel use by 620 gallons per year, which corresponds to an estimated 6,230 kg reduction in CO2 emissions.

Note that “renewability” and “carbon emissions reduction” are not strictly the same thing, but the two concepts are closely related, so we have calculated the savings both in terms of amount of fuel and corresponding estimated CO2 emission reductions.

Use biodiesel in your diesel car or truck

Biodiesel is a renewable version of diesel fuel, produced from vegetable oil. It is manufactured at several plants in Pennsylvania, and is blended, by state law, at a rate of 2% (called "B2"). Biodiesel improves the lubricity of diesel fuel, eliminating the need for sulfur compounds. Higher percentage biodiesel blends (such as "B20" or "B100") are available at a few locations around the state. Using high percentage biodisel blends is generally safe for diesel engines, although you should read the Penn State fact sheet "using biodiesel fuel in your engine" before making a switch.

  • cost to implement: $0 if your vehicle is rated to use biodiesel
  • annual expense: The relative price of biodiesel to petroleum varies, but recent nationwide data indicated that B20 costs about 4% more than petroleum diesel, and B100 costs about 44% more.
  • fossil fuel savings: This will vary depending on how much fuel you use per year, but if we assume 1000 gallons per household per year, switching to B20 would reduce petroleum use by 180 gallons per year (600 or 1709 kg CO2), while switching to B100 would reduce petroleum use by 980 gallons per year (3200 or 8546 kg CO2).

References

Biodiesel Vehicle Emissions

Emissions Calculator

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Article Details

Title

Make Your Transportation Habits More Renewable

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Contact Information

Daniel Ciolkosz, P.E.
  • Assistant Professor and Research Associate
Phone: 814-863-3484