Transportation accounts for 65 percent of U.S. oil consumption and is the predominant source of air pollution. New transportation technologies are intended to improve the efficiency and emissions of vehicles using petroleum-based fuels, provide cleaner-burning alternative fuels, and reduce the quantity of miles individual vehicles travel on our roads and highways.
What are biofuels?
Biofuels are derived from biological feed stocks (corn, soy, sugarcane, etc.) that are available as renewable sources of fuel.
Biodiesel – a low-polluting diesel alternative made from vegetable oils, animal fats, and even recycled cooking greases.
Ethanol – an alcohol-based fuel derived from crops such as corn, barley, and wheat. Ethanol can be blended with gasoline in varying concentrations. E85, for example, is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
Many other alternative fuels are being used today in place of gasoline and diesel fuel, including:
Natural gas – domestically produced and available to end-users through the utility infrastructure. It can either be stored onboard a vehicle as compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). Natural gas also can be blended with hydrogen.
Electricity – stored in batteries or produced onboard.
Propane – produced as a by-product of natural gas processing and crude oil refining.
Liquids made from coal - gasoline and diesel fuel that doesn't come from petroleum.
Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) use alternative fuels instead of gasoline or diesel fuel. AFVs range in size and shape, from small commuter cars to large 18-wheeler trucks. A number of automobile manufacturers offer light-duty vehicles for personal transportation.
AFVs are well-suited for fleets in certain "niche" markets. Taxi fleets, for example, with high-mileage vehicles that drive fairly centralized routes, may benefit from using a less expensive alternative fuel such as natural gas or propane. Local delivery fleets-with low mileage, high-use vehicles that frequently idle in traffic or must often start and stop may be good candidates for electric vehicles. Medium- and heavy-duty AFV applications include transit buses, airport shuttles, delivery trucks and vans, school buses, refuse haulers, and street sweepers.
Flex-Fuel Vehicles can be fueled with gasoline or, depending on the vehicle, with either methanol (M85) or ethanol (E85). The vehicles have one tank and can accept any mixture of gasoline and the alternative fuel.
Bifuel or Dual-Fuel Vehicles have two tanks—one for gasoline and one for either natural gas or propane, depending on the vehicle. The vehicles can switch between the two fuels.
Dedicated Vehicles are designed to be fueled only with an alternative fuel. Electric vehicles are a special type of dedicated vehicle.
Hybrid Vehicles combine the best features of two different energy sources, one of which is electric power. Until alternative fuels really catch on, hybrids can be a good choice. A hybrid gets about twice the fuel economy as a conventional car of the same size and capacity.
Plug-in Hybrids will be available soon. These get about twice the fuel economy of a hybrid. A plug-in hybrid, running on biofuel (e.g., 85 percent ethanol) could almost entirely eliminate its use of petroleum.
Alternative fuel stations are becoming increasingly popular across the country, as more consumers and agencies turn to clean fuels. Find out where these stations are using DOE's Alternative Fueling Station Locator.
2011 Fuel Economy Guide
Produced by DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 2011 Fuel Economy Guide provides information about estimated mileage and fuel costs for model year 2011 vehicles. For the first time, the guide includes medium-duty passenger vehicles, which are generally large sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and passenger vans. EPA and DOE will provide additional fuel economy information online as more information about 2011 vehicles, including electric and plug-in hybrid cars, becomes available.
Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center
The U.S. Department of Energy's very comprehensive source for information on alternative fuels. The site contains links to many other sites focusing on transportation. They also offer an Alternative Fuels Hotline at (800) 423-1363.
Biofuels Digest comprises the BiofuelsDigest.com news website, Biofuels Digest Asia, the daily Biofuels Digest e-newsletter, and the Biofuels Digest Newswire. The Digest covers producer news, research, policy, policymakers, conferences, fleets and financial news. It is home to the Biofuels Digest Index™, a benchmark basket of biofuels stocks, and the “50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy” annual rankings.
Biomass Crop Assistance Program
The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) was established by the 2008 Farm Bill as a new Title IX energy program. Congress intended that this program promote the cultivation of bioenergy crops that show exceptional promise for producing highly energy-efficient bioenergy or biofuels, and to develop those new crops and cropping systems in a manner that preserves natural resources. In addition, BCAP is not intended to fund those crops that are primarily grown for food or animal feed. Farmers participating in a BCAP project will be eligible to enter into a 5-year agreement with USDA to establish annual or perennial crops or a 15-year agreement for woody biomass. BCAP provides:
- annual incentive payments for the production of perennial and annual crops;
- cost-share payments to establish perennial biomass crops; and
- a matching payment of up to $45 per ton of eligible biomass to assist with the collection, harvest, storage and transport of a BCAP crop to a biomass conversion facility
Looking for biofuels information with a local slant? Try Bozeman Biofuels website! Bozeman Biofuels was formed following the Bioneers conference in fall 2004. The group is committed to using alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol. Its website offers useful information on biofuels, including where to purchase in Bozeman, links to other resources, and more.
A locally-based government/industry partnership, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy to expand the use of alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuel. Web site provides information on alternative fuels and transportation, a listing of Clean Cities, Clean Cities documents, and other useful information.
Developing a Business Case for Sustainable Biomass Generation: A Regional Model for Western Montana
The Montana Community Development Corporation has released this new (June 2010) report, prepared for NorthWestern Energy. The report explores the feasibility of developing sustainable, woody biomass-fueled Combined Heat and Power plants at sawmills in western Montana to supply a portion of NorthWestern Energy’s required renewable energy portfolio. The report found that a 18-megawatt biomass power plant running on logging by-products already being generated at Tricon Timber in St. Regis would create about 216 construction-related jobs and $11.4 million in annual wages, while ongoing operations would create 43 jobs and $4.25 million in annual wages.
DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
The U.S. Department of Energy provides information on clean transportation technologies and related topics through its FreedomCAR & Fuel Program. In addition, the Fuel Cell Technology Program is helping to develop and introduce new clean technologies.
Energy Calculators and Software: Vehicles
DOE offers these useful tools to help you learn about the effect your vehicle has on the environment and the potential savings of more fuel-efficient vehicles.
"Energy Conservation on the Farm at the Huls Dairy"
A new (2009) NRCS produced video that features members of the Huls family and the strong commitment each family member made. It also demonstrates how the digester works when using methane gasses to produce energy. The video identifies other on-farm benefits as a result of this project including cost savings on fuel, electricity, irrigation, and fertilizer, additional income from commercial composting, and improved long-term environmental benefits.
EERE Vehicle Technologies Program
The Vehicle Technologies Program is developing more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly highway transportation technologies that will enable America to use less petroleum. The long-term aim is to develop "leap frog" technologies that will provide Americans with greater freedom of mobility and energy security, while lowering costs and reducing impacts on the environment.
Farm Energy Biodiesel
From the Montana State University Extension, this website provides links to a number of articles related to biodiesel.
Green Car Institute
A nonprofit research organization that encourages the development and widespread use of alternative and clean fuel vehicles. Green Car Institute also places emphasis on related areas such as energy efficiency, recycling, and environmentally conscious manufacturing to promote understanding of these important and interconnected issues.
The website for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's (ACEEE) Green Book, an environmental guide to cars and trucks.
A website of the Union of Concerned Scientists that provides consumer and technological information on hybrid vehicles. Features include a hybrid buying guide, hybrid reviews, and hybrid incentives.
Montana DEQ Biomass Energy Program
DEQ’s Biomass Energy Program helps:
- Assist in commercial development of biomass as an economical and environmentally preferable energy resource option including applied research, development, and education;
- Develop, demonstrate, and bring to the marketplace new bioenergy technologies relating to energy efficiency, renewable resources, or technologies that use local (biomass) waste streams; and
- Provide technical assistance, information development, and information to local business, government, and industry that match innovative energy technologies to local energy needs, focusing on solutions.
National Biodiesel Board
The national trade association representing the biodiesel industry as the coordinating body for research and development in the U.S. Website includes information on biodiesel and related topics.
Articles and Publications
Beyond Biofuels: Renewable Energy Opportunities for U.S. Farmers
As farmers struggle with increasing energy costs and decreasing farm incomes, untapped business opportunities in renewable energy hold the promise of addressing both of these problems, while also offering numerous other benefits such as rural economic development, national energy security and improved environmental conditions. American farmers have captured some renewable energy opportunities available to them, notably those associated with ethanol production, but have not yet developed most renewable technologies to their full potential. German farmers, on the other hand, have used renewable to their advantage and have established a much more robust agriculture-renewables connection than their American counterparts. Learn more in this 2010 publication.
Biodiesel: Do-It-Yourself Production Basics
This publication from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service serves as an introduction to home biodiesel production. It includes lists of equipment and materials needed to make small batches of biodiesel. It describes biodiesel and includes cautionary notes and procedures for making test batches and 5-gallon batches. An extensive resource list is also provided.
Biodiesel: The Sustainability Dimensions
Biodiesel is a renewable and environmentally friendly fuel. This publication surveys many dimensions of biodiesel production and use. Net energy balance, sustainable bioenergy crops, scale of production, consumer access, and the economics of biodiesel are all critical when discussing a sustainable energy future for this country. Above all, increased fuel efficiency and increased diesel engine use in the United States will be needed in order for biodiesel to become a meaningful part of our energy future.
Biodiesel Use, Handling, and Fuel Quality
This publication addresses questions that farmers and ranchers may have about using biodiesel in diesel engines. Biodiesel can be substituted for petroleum-based diesel fuel in virtually any standard unmodified diesel engine. However, biodiesel has chemical properties that require somewhat different use and handling. While most biodiesel users experience few if any problems, consumers can take precautions to avoid potential problems associated with poor quality fuel.
Fleet Electrification Roadmap
The Electrification Coalition released on November 15, 2010, the Fleet Electrification Roadmap, an analysis of the business case for U.S. fleets to adopt electric-drive technology. The report argues that the lower operating costs of electric drive vehicles coupled with the operational norms of commercial and government fleets could make adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) highly attractive. The report includes a detailed examination of commercial and government fleets, highlighting common practices that could make them significant early adopters of EVs and PHEVs. The analysis suggests that with targeted, temporary policies in place, a cumulative 200,000 electric-drive vehicles could be on the road by 2015. PRTM, a global management consulting firm, partnered with the Electrification Coalition to provide the electric vehicle market analysis, technical input, and life cycle cost modeling for the Fleet Electrification Roadmap.
Biofuels for Your State
A DOE publication that provides a good overview of biofuels and their benefits. It also lists ethanol incentives by state.
Growing America's Fuel
Released by the Obama Administration in February 2010, this is the first report from the Biofuels Interagency Working Group, which was created by the president last May and led by DOE, the USDA, and the EPA. The report warns that the United States, which now produces 12 billion gallons per year of biofuels, is not on the road to reach the goal of 36 billion gallons by 2022. To address the potential shortfall, the report focuses on both short-term growth and a long-term roadmap for biofuel growth, suggesting strategies such as strategic public-private partnerships to develop the biofuels supply chain, further research and development of feedstocks, and accelerated development of "drop-in" biofuels, such as biobased gasoline, diesel fuel, and aviation fuel. The report also calls for increased government consumption of biofuels along with an integrated management approach, relying on the oversight of a small centrally-located team accountable to the new president's Biofuels Interagency Working Group.
A Guide for Evaluating the
Requirements of Ethanol Plants
Developed by the Clean Fuels Foundation and the Clean Fuels Development Coalition in cooperation with the Nebraska Ethanol Board, this ethanol plant guide was developed to assist communities, cooperatives and other agricultural
organizations in making an initial determination regarding the economic feasibility of developing an ethanol
project. Information contained in this document is considered to have applicability to biofuel processing
ventures aside from ethanol projects.
Harnessing the Power of Advanced Fleet Vehicles: A Hybrid Electric Vehicle Fact Sheet for Government Officials
Hybrid electric vehicles (hybrids) are exciting new additions to the car market for government fleet purchases. Powered by both an internal combustion engine and a battery-operated electric motor, hybrids can achieve up to twice the fuel economy of a conventional car and produce 30 to 50 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to reducing our dependence on oil and improving the environment, hybrids can offer cost savings over the lifetime of vehicle ownership. This publication is intended for governments considering a hybrid fleet.
Hybrid Taxis Give Fuel Economy a Lift
This case study produced by the DOE's Clean Cities program discusses how Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and San Antonio, Texas, created hybrid taxi programs that cut gasoline use and air pollution while pleasing drivers and passengers alike.
Just the Basics: Vehicle Emissions
This DOE fact sheet explains the components of vehicle exhaust emissions and why they are a problem.
Oilseed Processing for Small-Scale Producers
There are many varieties of seeds and nuts that can produce oils for food, nutraceuticals, skincare products, aromatherapies, fuels and industrial lubricants. This publication describes the basic processes involved in oil processing including seed cleaning, extraction, clarification, packaging and storage. Sources for more information and equipment are included in the References and Resources sections at the end of the publication.
Renewable Energy Opportunities on the Farm
Renewable energy represents an important option for agricultural producers. This publication from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service/ATTRA introduces three renewable energy resources that can be attractive and economically feasible for the farm: solar, wind, and renewable fuels. This is not a technical guide for designing or installing renewable energy systems but, instead, an overview that provides information on wind, solar, and renewable fuel technologies, cost and savings, site planning, and financial incentives. A list of resources follows the narrative.
Repowering Montana: A Blueprint for Homegrown Energy Self-Reliance
This publication from AERO details strategies for investing in energy efficiency,
in sustainable production of biofuels (both biodiesel and ethanol), and in dispersed wind,
small hydro, and solar power systems, and also advocates localizing ownership and control
of these energy systems as much as possible. Doing so, says its authors, will keep dollars circulating in our
communities (instead of exporting them elsewhere) and will create useful and fulfilling work for our citizens, in both the countryside and in cities.