, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 470-480
Date: 29 Jan 2012

Global Warming Impact of E85 Fuel Derived from Forest Biomass: A Case Study from Southern USA

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Abstract

This study estimates global warming impact (GWI) of E85 fuel needed to run a small passenger car for its average lifetime, i.e., 241,402 km (150,000 miles). The ethanol needed for the production of E85 fuel was derived from an intensively managed slash pine (Pinus elliottii) plantation in the southern USA. We assumed that only pulpwood and harvesting residues obtained at the time of harvesting were used for ethanol production. A suitable system boundary was defined and a detailed life-cycle assessment was undertaken to determine GWI of all the steps present within the system boundary. Results indicate that the overall GWI of the E85 fuel was about 76% less than an equivalent amount of gasoline needed to run a small passenger car for its average lifetime. Within the system boundary, the GWI of the ethanol production stage was highest followed by the stage of E85 fuel consumption in a small passenger car. A need exists to evaluate impacts of utilizing forest biomass for E85 fuel production on forest ecology and traditional forest biomass-based industries.