Zero Emission Vehicles, and Zero Carbon: The Chart that the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post Dare Not Publish

November 28, 2013 |

ZEVYou know, sometimes hard data just knocks you for a loop.

Here’s a chart that’s so contrarian to everything that mainstream media, mainstream thought-merchants want you to believe, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post declined to publish it.

What belief does it contradict? The assumption that zero emissions vehicles (generally, electric cars) have zero emissions.

Are ethanol-powered vehicles better on carbon reduction than electric cars? The E100 Ethanol group assembles the numbers.

By Don Siefkes, Deborah Baron, and Eileen Broderick

The State of New York along with California and 6 other states announced, on Oct 24, 2013, a pact to put 3.3 million Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2025.  If the objective is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, this plan is totally inadequate. E100 optimized engines would be much better.

There are approximately 250 million light duty  vehicles in the U.S. burning gasoline. Thus, even if the 3.3 million ZEV goal is achieved, that represents only 1.32% of the total number of light duty vehicles.

The U.S. currently uses 135 billion gals of gasoline annually adding 3.267 trillion lbs of new, net CO2 to the atmosphere every year. We believe the goal should be to cut those numbers 50% by 2025, not just by 1.32%

With zero emission vehicles, CO2 emissions won’t even be cut by that 1.32%. While the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla S, and fuel cell vehicles may be zero emission at the tailpipe, they are certainly not zero emission if the net CO2 produced when making the hydrogen or electricity necessary to move these vehicles is counted.


As can be seen from this table, the ZEVs emit more net CO2 than cellulosic ethanol powered vehicles. This is because making the hydrogen and electricity for ZEVs means bringing up new carbon – natural gas or coal – from underground.

Ethanol made from waste cellulose, in contrast, is made from carbon already above ground so no new carbon is put into the atmosphere. It is a carbon neutral fuel. (Actually, slightly negative for reasons too lengthy to explain here.)

Mandating the use of optimized ethanol mileage (E100) engines sold in New York, California and the other 6 states would rapidly slow global warming and would add millions of ethanol zero-emission vehicles every year to the U.S. fleet.

Since ethanol costs less than gasoline, and since E100 engines provide better mileage than gasoline at the same power level, consumers would flock to these vehicles. Such an E100 engine would cost roughly only $100 more than an equally powered gasoline engine.

Of course, there may be some other way besides ethanol to make billions of gallons of a carbon neutral fuel at low cost of which we are unaware.

The way to find out is for New York and the other 7 states to stop specifying the technology and simply specify the desired end result.  Let the auto engineers sort out the technology.

For example, a mandate that 50% of light-duty vehicles sold in NY, CA or any of the other 6 states in this pact after Jan. 1, 2017 must have carbon neutral fueled engines with life-cycle CO2 emissions of 0.1 lbs or less per mile would rapidly bring ethanol optimized engines or other biofuel engine technology into being.

CO2 emissions would be lowered far beyond the current strategy of electric and fuel cell vehicles at significantly lower cost. The future of the biofuels industry would be secure without limit.

Don Siefkes
Executive  Director, E100 Ethanol Group, Sterling Heights, MI

Deborah Baron
Director, Mendocino Alcohol Fuel Group, Ft. Bragg, CA

Eileen Broderick
Director, Ft. Bragg Grange #672, Ft. Bragg, CA

[Note to readers: In the original draft of this article, the E100 Ethanol group presented data for corn ethanol-powered vehicles, which also have substantially reduced carbon compared to conventional fuels. Since there is so much controversy over Indirect Land Use Change  — and the resulting carbon reduction can be anywhere from 16 percent to 60 percent depending on the ILUC factor used, The Digest asked the Group to not include corn ethanol comparative data in the chart, at this time. However, corn ethanol-powered E100 vehicles outperform conventional gasoline in all scenarios, and can outperform all electric and CNG vehicles, in many scenarios with lower ILUC factors.] 

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