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Advanced biofuels can play a key role in Delaware’s effort to reduce emissions

Following California, Gov. John Carney took a major step to reduce Delaware’s carbon emissions when he directed state regulators to require that all new passenger vehicles sold in the state be electric by 2035. While the governor’s decision sets the state on the path towards emission reductions, this mandate risks being incomplete without fully addressing the unique nature transportation sector emissions. Meaningfully reducing emissions from Delaware’s transportation sector will require a more comprehensive approach that embraces both the long-term promise of electric vehicles, along with technologies, such as low-carbon advanced biofuels, to support older, non-electric vehicles unaffected by the new regulations and the heavy industry vehicles — airplanes, ships and long-haul trucks — that power the state’s economy.

It is true that if the Delaware is to make a dent in its carbon footprint, it must prioritize reducing emissions from its vehicles. Thirty-two percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions come from its transportation sector alone. But passenger vehicles are just a portion of the overall transportation economy. Heavy industry — including buses, trucks, ships, and planes – remain difficult to electrify. Restricting transportation policy shifts to only new passenger vehicles sales could create an “electrification gap” in Delaware, with many older vehicles on the state’s roads reliant on high-carbon liquid fuels.

Delaware is no stranger to setting lofty climate ambitions. In 2017, the state joined the U.S. Climate Alliance and began working toward at least a twenty-six percent in carbon emissions by 2025. Much of this effort hinges on widespread electrification. It is incumbent for policymakers to take bold action to slow climate change and transition Delaware to a lower carbon economy. EVs are an important part of the solution to this challenge. But to make an even more significant impact will require support for and utilization of low-carbon alternatives for the full suite of passenger and industry vehicles and liquid fuels that power them.

Low-carbon advanced biofuels made from renewable, non-food biomass can play an integral role in powering Delaware across the “electrification gap” and toward important carbon reduction goals, particularly in certain sectors where electrification is less well-suited or where EV infrastructure has yet to emerge at scale. By Congress’s definition, advanced biofuels must deliver at least a fifty percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, with some delivering up to an eighty percent reduction.

In addition to the emission reductions offered by advanced biofuels, the low cost required to distribute them is key to reducing greenhouse gasses quickly and efficiently. Advanced biofuels require almost no change to current fuel distribution infrastructure — meaning they can be used to power cars and trucks without any significant taxpayer investment.

Plus, low-carbon, advanced biofuels can provide Delawareans with the opportunity to significantly reduce their carbon footprint without having to incur a hefty new car payment. Most Delaware residents are very concerned about climate change and believe government intervention is needed. However, the challenge for some ardent supporters of public policy interventions, like Carney’s EV directive, will be the high cost of purchasing a new EV given its average cost of over $66,000. This cost could prove challenging for residents given Delaware’s median household income of roughly $72,000.

Governor Carney’s commitment to transitioning Delaware to a clean energy economy is laudable and should be supported. But to ensure that the Governor’s goals are realized, it is vital that Delaware utilize advanced biofuels to achieve the greatest carbon reduction from the state’s transportation sector.

Michael McAdams is the president of the Advanced Biofuels Association.