Biofuels: Let’s Clear the Air

Much of the dialogue surrounding the climate crisis is centered on the future, and rightly so. But what we tend to forget about is the here and now. Individuals feel pressure to make small changes today–going vegan, biking/walking more, or making sustainable swaps–but big changes made by big corporations tend to come about slowly. While large-scale goals are necessary, change is still needed now. And the Urban Air Initiative is fighting for that change. 

While the car industry is looking at a mass transition into electric transportation, the biofuel industry is hoping to make the world a little greener now. The Urban Air Initiative is a research organization focused on biofuels and how they can cut our greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50%. 

So, what is biofuel? It’s ethanol (a form of alcohol) derived from corn kernels. The starch and sugars from the kernel are turned into ethanol while the protein is turned into animal feed. Nothing is wasted. But this isn’t a new invention. In fact, 98% of gas already contains 10% ethanol. Ethanol replaces aromatic hydrocarbons like benzene, which release the most carbon emissions into the environment. Biofuel alone replaces eight billion gallons of aromatics every year. New blends are becoming more and more readily available, such as the 15%, 20%, and 30% sold at local JumpStart stations. It’s better for the environment, it’s more affordable, and it improves engine performance. Interestingly enough, ethanol blends are one of the most popular race fuels; NASCAR uses the E15 blend. And yet, despite all the benefits, it is still not featured in every station. 

In the ‘90s, the addition of ethanol into fuel was a bipartisan effort. It was originally introduced to replace lead, which wasn’t banned until 1996. However due to misinformation, as well as the Food vs. Fuel debate, ethanol became a controversial topic and from there rumors spread. 

Now, the dialogue is changing. U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois introduced a bill last year to increase biofuels and decrease the use of carbon-emitting aromatics. In Kansas, both Rep. Ron Estes (R) and Rep. Roger Marshall (R) are champions for biofuels. Other advocates include Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), Sen. Joni Ernst (R), and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R). This is truly a bipartisan issue. Even the Koch family has invested in the ethanol industry. Their company Flint Hills Resources converts corn into ethanol all over the midwest. 

I spoke with Kim Trinchet, the Communications Manager of Urban Air Initiative, on the subject. Their organization is not looking to fight the electric future, instead they want to provide “the bridge [that will] help us get there.” Let’s Clear the Air is their direct attempt to educate communities, especially those that are home to ethanol plants, about the benefits of adding ethanol to fuel. 

“We’re focused on more of the here and now. Just getting people to understand that [the transition to electric] is not going to happen overnight. The more we can think about improving liquid transportation today, the more of a difference we can make during the transition.” 


This is an incredibly easy way to cut down on emissions and make an impact right now. Check your vehicle for compatibility and head on over to a local JumpStart to fuel the green way.

  • Kim Trinchet
    Posted at 16:43h, 12 May Reply

    Thank you for helping educate the community about biofuels. These plant based renewable fuels can be used today to reduce carbon and improve air quality!

  • Jane Byrnes
    Posted at 18:31h, 19 July Reply

    Much more sustainable than burning plants along with fossil fuels, is using clean electricity! (One obstacle to electric vehicles is of course the reluctance of Wichita car lots to sell electric cars.)

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