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Automobiles generate more air pollution than any other human activity, contributing very significantly to the emissions of greenhouse gases, notably CO2 (2.5 kg of CO2 are produced per litre of petroleum used in a car) and are the fastest-growing energy consumption sector worldwide.
Each year the transportation sector produces 30% of the world’s carbon emissions. Because of the rapid growth of the transport sector, this predicted future increase will have major environmental implications, particulary in rapidly growing developing countries. Among the alternatives, the use of environmentally sustainable transportation fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel significantly reduce emissions, as experience from Brazil and the USA clearly shows over the past 20 years.
CO2 is part of the Earth’s natural carbon cycle, which circulates carbon through the atmosphere, plants, animals, oceans, soil, and rocks. This cycle maintains a life-sustaining and delicate natural balance between storing, releasing, and recycling carbon.
Besides displacing fossil fuels, the feedstocks used to make biofuels require CO2 to grow, which is absorbed from the atmosphere. Thus, most or all of the CO2 released when biomass is converted into a biofuel and burned in automobile engines is recaptured when new biomass is grown to produce more biofuels.
The blending, or replacement, of gasoline and diesel as the main transportation fuels in the UK (and worldwide) offers massive potential for CO2 emissions abatement.
In Brazil, the large scale use of ethanol fuel has played a significant role in reducing the level of pollution. For example, the introduction of ethanol-gasoline blends had an immediate impact on the air quality of the large cities particularly São Paulo. The CO2 emissions avoided with the use of ethanol and bagasse (for heat and electricity) correspond to nearly 18% of total emissions from fossil fuels use.
Various studies have determined the potential for reducing pollution by using cellulose-derived ethanol with reductions in carbon emissions from vehicles in the order of 80-95% rising to over 100% if the biomass remaining after the ethanol process is used to produce electricity. This advanced technology is the goal of TMO Biotec’s research efforts.