Converting Renewable Energy to Carbon Neutral Liquid Fuel

Converting Renewable Energy to Carbon Neutral Liquid Fuel
Converting Renewable Energy to Carbon Neutral Liquid Fuel

Carbon Neutral Fuels.

Electric vehicle technology has come a long way in the last decade. Companies like Tesla Motors and many others are now betting heavily on the consumer’s acceptance and demand for electric vehicles in the very near future. Electric car prices are starting to come down to be comparable with conventional cars while their range and recharge times are improving.

Consumers are however very accustomed to pumping a liquid fuel and being able to fill their verhicle tanks in minutes. What if we could develop a replacement fuel for gasoline and diesel fuel that is carbon nuetral? We would be able to switch existing vehicles to use it without additional cost to the consumer for new vehicles except the price difference for the fuel.

This would allow the world to move very quicky towards a method of transportation that does not add to the global carbon dioxide.

The Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) recently announced up to $70 million in funding for its two newest programs: Renewable Energy to Fuels Through Utilization of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL) and Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration (ROOTS).

Carbon Neutral Fuel From Renewable Sources.

REFUEL projects will use water, molecules from the air and electricity from renewable sources to produce high-energy liquid fuels for transportation and other uses. ROOTS projects will tackle the growing problem of soil “carbon debt” by developing sensing technologies to help farmers choose crop varieties that better capture carbon molecules from the atmosphere and store them in their root systems.

“ARPA-E invests in programs that draw on a broad set of disciplines and require the bold thinking we need to build a better energy future,” said ARPA-E Director Dr. Ellen D. Williams.

REFUEL’s way of creating fuels from commonly available molecules could drastically change how we power our cars and trucks, while ROOTS projects will help us find crops that trap carbon into the soil and reduce the need for costly, emissions-heavy fertilizers.

Renewable Energy to Fuels Through Utilization of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL) – $35 Million

Most liquid fuels used in transportation today are derived from petroleum and burned in internal combustion engines. These energy-dense fuels are currently economical, but they remain partially reliant on imported petroleum and are highly carbon intensive. Projects in the REFUEL program will develop scalable technologies for converting water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide into energy-dense carbon-neutral liquid fuels (CNLFs) and back into electricity or hydrogen fuel on demand.

The REFUEL program will provide $35 million to 16 projects that will accelerate the shift to domestically produced transportation fuels and enable greater integration of renewable energy sources onto the grid, improving grid resiliency and American energy security.

View details on REFUEL’s 16 projects here.

Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration (ROOTS) – $35 Million

Specialized plant breeds could dramatically and economically reduce the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide while providing farmers with benefits in soil quality, reduced need for irrigation and reduced fertilizer use. Improving these plants to increase soil carbon storage represents an untapped opportunity to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with significant additional economic potential. While advances in agriculture have resulted in a ten-fold increase in crop yield over the past century, soil quality has suffered, diminishing its ability to support healthy crops. Through root and soil measurement and modeling to accelerate breeding activities, 10 projects in the ROOTS program will receive $35 million to develop crops that increase carbon deposition depth and accumulation by 50 percent while also reducing nitrous oxide emissions by 50 percent and increasing water productivity by 25 percent.

View details on ROOTS’ 10 projects here.

About ARPA-E

The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) accelerates the advancement of transformational energy technologies to enhance the economic and energy security of the United States by investing in high-potential, high-impact energy projects that are too early for the private sector. Launched in 2009, ARPA-E explores uncharted territories of energy technology to generate options for entirely new paths to create, store and use energy. Learn more at

About Gordon Smith
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.

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