Author(s): Spatari S, Zhang Y, MacLean HL
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Abstract Utilizing domestically produced cellulose-derived ethanol for the light-duty vehicle fleet can potentially improve the environmental performance and sustainability of the transport and energy sectors of the economy. A life cycle assessment model was developed to examine environmental implications of the production and use of ethanol in automobiles in Ontario, Canada. The results were compared to those of low-sulfur reformulated gasoline (RFG) in a functionally equivalent automobile. Two time frames were evaluated, one near-term (2010), which examines converting a dedicated energy crop (switchgrass) and an agricultural residue (corn stover) to ethanol; and one midterm (2020), which assumes technological improvements in the switchgrass-derived ethanol life cycle. Near-term results show that, compared to a RFG automobile, life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are 57\% lower for an E85-fueled automobile derived from switchgrass and 65\% lower for ethanol from corn stover, on a grams of CO2 equivalent per kilometer basis. Corn stover ethanol exhibits slightly lower life cycle GHG emissions, primarily due to sharing emissions with grain production. Through projected improvements in crop and ethanol yields, results for the mid-term scenario show that GHG emissions could be 25-35\% lower than those in 2010 and that, even with anticipated improvements in RFG automobiles, E85 automobiles could still achieve up to 70\% lower GHG emissions across the life cycle.
This article was published in Environ Sci Technol
and referenced in Journal of Bioprocessing & Biotechniques