Alternative fuels

Climate Implications - Alternative Fuels

Petroleum-based fuels currently make up over 90 percent of the fuel used for transportation and emit high amounts of greenhouse gases. Alternative fuels – any fuel that is not petroleum based – are looked at as a potential solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Examples of alternative fuels include biodiesel, ethanol, electricity from renewable sources, propane, and hydrogen. The use of alternative fuels has the potential to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released by cars and trucks, which account for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States at 28 percent.

While there is growing interest in alternative fuels to reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and reliance on gasoline imports, climate change will impact the production and distribution of non-conventional fuels such as electricity, biofuels, and others.

Extreme precipitation caused by climate change could disrupt infrastructure that supplies alternative fuels. In the Midwest, floods and droughts are likely to affect the levels of river and lake water, which can damage the production, distribution, and transmission infrastructure for alternative fuels. Both higher average and extreme temperatures have the potential to reduce the capacity of energy transmission lines, which could cause disruptions to the electric grid. Electricity outages resulting from severe weather may also pose a threat to the use of electricity to power cars and trucks.

Bioenergy, another alternative fuel, is likely to be impacted by climate change as well. Temperature and weather changes are projected to reduce Indiana corn yields by up to 20 percent by 2050, which will reduce the amount of corn available for biofuels. However, crops may be grown in a larger part of the country as the number of frost days decreases.