On the Road to a Net-Zero-Carbon Transportation Future

Climate change is speeding up, along with the urgency to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions responsible for global warming. At the same time, car, truck, and train wheels keep turning, while planes and boats take to the skies and oceans—releasing 1.5 billion tons of GHGs into the atmosphere every year.

Breakthroughs from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines (Co-Optima) initiative will help rapidly cut emissions, reduce dependence on international petroleum, and contribute to ambitious national goals to slow global warming on the land, in the air, and across the water. While previous research focused on either the fuel or the engine, the Co-Optima team examined synergies provided by co-optimizing potential fuels with advanced engine technologies. Findings from the six-year collaborative undertaking are now available in a recently released report

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Quantity in Search of Quality: Los Alamos National Laboratory Makes a Case for Improving Algae Genome Data

The potential for advancing algal biofuels and bioproducts relies on using algae strains that are best suited for industrial production. Genomic sequence data—the functional information in the DNA of a specific organism such as algae—can reveal the genes and regulatory mechanisms that control how a given strain grows and responds to stress. By screening genomes from a vast array of diverse algae, scientists can unlock the secrets of how to cultivate rapidly growing, high-quality strain compositions. High-quality genomes include no gaps in their sequence and accurately reflect all of the DNA in the strain.

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Q&A With Nicholas Rorrer: Plant-Based Plastics and Plastic Plants

By age nine, Nicholas Rorrer was busy staining T-shirts with ketchup.

Rorrer was not a messy kid. Quite the opposite; his ketchup stains were part of a surprisingly well-controlled experiment on how various soaps work on stains of all colors.

Today, Rorrer, who is a senior researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), studies how to clean up a very different, far more complicated mess—plastics, or rather the molecular building blocks (called polymers) behind these bitter-sweet materials.

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SAFFiRE Sustainable Aviation Fuel Project Earns Government-Industry Boost

With fuel prices soaring, a new government–industry partnership based at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) plans to shift the aviation market further away from oil fields and closer to the farmlands.

The planned 10-ton-per-day pilot plant project, Sustainable Aviation Fuel From [i] Renewable Ethanol, or SAFFiRE, involves D3MAX LLC, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), Southwest Airlines, NREL, LanzaJet, and other partners. The results could help make the goals of the multiagency Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge a reality.

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Co-Optima Crosses the Finish Line Findings Pave the Way for a Net-Zero-Carbon Transportation Future

Just as the wheels keep turning on cars, trucks, and trains, the planet keeps spinning in its orbit. All the while, climate change is accelerating, along with the dire need to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions responsible for global warming. Transportation activity releases 1.5 billion tons of GHGs into the atmosphere every year.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines (Co-Optima) initiative recently wrapped up six years of fuel and engine research designed to more rapidly reduce dependence on international petroleum and cut emissions, while slowing global warming. DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) played a major role in the collaborative undertaking. Findings are now available in a recently released report.

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Ethanol vs. Petroleum-Based Fuel Carbon Emissions

Biofuels have been proven to emit significantly lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than petroleum-based fuels, and recent scientific studies indicate that net-zero emission biofuels are not only possible, but achievable.

Corn ethanol and other biofuels are essential in America’s transition to a clean energy economy that creates good-paying jobs, increases energy independence, and supports the Biden Administration’s climate goals. However, not all biofuels are created equal. The GHG emissions of a biofuel depend on what it’s made from, how and where it’s made, and how it’s used—the full life cycle of the biomass, biofuel production, and use.

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Will you become a carbon farmer?

Farmers chase profit in all kinds of ways. In the Corn Belt, it usually means growing a good crop and selling it for profit. But what if your main profit driver came from carbon removal?

At the recent World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit that scenario was laid out by David Babson, director of Advance Research Projects Agency at the U.S. Department of Energy.

“We no longer have the luxury of just reducing emissions to meet our climate targets,” says Babson. “We have to reduce our emissions down to zero and then go negative.”

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Pennycress: The first cash cover crop

Back in 2009, Win Phippen had this idea. If he could just raise a better pennycress, he might have another biofuel cash crop. So Phippen, a plant breeder at Western Illinois University, loaded up his wife and kids in the family minivan and hit the road.

“We’d just drive, and every 50 miles or so, I’d stop. We’d get off the interstate and weave up and down farmers’ fields, looking for a little pennycress,” he says. Around a telephone pole, near an old silo. Next to a field. Phippen, his wife, and their three young kids.

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The Ocean Is Climate Change’s First Victim and Last Resort

Rain forests may be known as the planet’s lungs, but it’s when standing before the seas, with their crashing waves and ceaselessly cycling tides, that we feel the earth breathe. The ocean, say scientists, is the source of all life on earth. It is also, say philosophers, the embodiment of life’s greatest terror: the unknown and uncontrollable.

This duality has become increasingly manifest in the climate discourse of recent years, as ice melts, seas rise, and shores everywhere face storms of a ferocity unseen in living memory. But even as the ocean has become the subject of hand-wringing over what we’ve wrought, it has also become a keystone of hope that we may limit the damage if we act now.

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National Parks to Drop Single-Use Plastics Within 10 Years

The U.S. Department of Interior will phase-out the use of single-use plastics from areas it manages, including all national parks, within 10 years.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland mandated the move, which aims to reduce waste, by 2032 in an order issued on June 8. Products that will be phased out include “plastic and polystyrene food and beverage containers, bottles, straws, cups, cutlery and disposable plastic bags.”

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