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Renewable diesel offers lower emissions than regular diesel, study says

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Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A gas pump is seen hanging from the ceiling at a petrol station in Seoul (June 27, 2011).

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The lifecycle carbon emissions of renewable diesel fuel are significantly lower than those of conventional diesel, says a new study from a company that sells the renewable version.

Neste's diesel fuel can be used in both cars and heavy-duty trucks. Today, it sells the renewable diesel in parts of Northern California.

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The company recently analyzed the overall carbon footprint of its fuels and others.

It looked at the "well-to-wheels" carbon emissions, including those related to its manufacturing process.

Neste found that the overall carbon-dioxide emissions for its renewable diesel averaged 10 grams per kilometer, compared to 100g per km for conventional diesel.

Gasoline was found to have somewhat higher overall emissions than conventional diesel.

The company claims its renewable diesel offers lower lifecycle carbon emissions even than grid electricity for battery-electric cars.

It calculated an average of 28g per km for electric cars, likely on grids in Finland, Russia, and the Baltic states, where Neste currently operates on a large scale.

In the U.S., several studies have been undertaken to determine the emissions related to electricity generation for electric cars.

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The consensus seems to be that cars charged off the dirtiest, coal-fired grids have overall emissions comparable to those of the most fuel-efficient gasoline cars.

However, those emissions drop significantly when cars are charged from cleaner grids that use lower-carbon energy sources.

Neste operates primarily in Europe, but the company is trying to break into the U.S. market.

Last year, it sent a car across the country on a single tank of its NEXBTL renewable diesel fuel.

The car—a Superlite Coupe powered by a 1.9-liter Volkswagen TDI engine—covered 2,507 miles on 37.6 gallons, averaging 67 mpg at an average speed of 68 mph.

Neste also claims NEXBTL isn't limited by the "blend wall" that limits the quantities of other types of biofuels that can be blended with petroleum products.

While some trucks today are certified to use B20, or diesel fuel with 20 percent biodiesel, many diesel passenger vehicles remain limited to B5.

This article first appeared at GreenCarReports.