U.S.-grown soy plays an important role in keeping America moving – both in the air and on land.

With the rising cost of petroleum, and in search of more renewable fuels and lower greenhouse gas emissions, America’s transportation industry has been investing in more eco-friendly ingredients for common transportation products, such as tires, fuel and asphalt. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, petroleum refineries are a major source of hazardous and toxic air pollutants.

Many companies have found success using soy as a replacement for petroleum, since the fatty acids from soybean oil perform similarly to the those found in petroleum. Let’s explore how U.S.-grown soy plays an important role in keeping America moving – both in the air and on land.

Soy-based Tires

Traditional tires contain steel, textiles, petroleum, and synthetic polymers. Globally, cars send 6.1 million metric tons of tire particles into the atmosphere and waterways! Tire particles are some of the most common microplastics found in the oceans.

U.S. Soy recently partnered with Goodyear Tire to create a petroleum-free, soy-based tire that’s eco-friendly, high-performing and weather-ready. The new soy-based tire is not only more sustainable than traditional alternatives, but it also demonstrates increased traction in rain and snow. Sustainability and safety for the win!

Goodyear offers three tires manufactured with soybean oil that you can purchase, including the Assurance WeatherReady®, Assurance ComfortDrive® and Eagle Exhilarate®.

Last year, Goodyear also released its Metro Miler tires for commercial trucks. According to Goodyear, the use of soybean oil in its Metro Miller tires replaces about 11 ounces of petroleum oil per tire – almost as much as a traditional soda can. Multiply that by a fleet of 1,600 vehicles and that could mean the use of around 20 fewer barrels of oil!

Other tire companies are also investing in plant-based technology. Bridgestone just released its first electric vehicle tire, the Turanza EV tire. One of the company’s most sustainable products to date, the Turanza is made with recycled materials from end-of-life tires and plastic products, as well as soybean oil and rice husk silica.

Soy-based Aviation Fuel

In the last few years, more consumers have become concerned with the environmental impacts of flying. Scientists have been working to develop more cost-effective, sustainable fuel alternatives to petroleum.  

Recently, the Agricultural Research Service within the Department of Agriculture developed a way to make jet biofuel from soybean oil. Made from soybeans and cooking oils, soy-based aviation fuel delivers the same performance as petroleum-based jet fuel but with a fraction of its carbon footprint, giving airlines a solid footing for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Department of Energy.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 9% to 12% of the U.S. transportation greenhouse gas emissions are from aviation. Soy-based aviation fuel results in an impressive reduction of up to 80% in carbon emissions over the lifecycle of the fuel compared to traditional jet fuel.

Another bonus? Soybeans are more sustainable to harvest and process than petroleum!

In March of 2022, United Airlines conducted its first flight with 100% sustainable aviation fuel. The goal is that biofuels will fully power the airline industry by 2050. Airliners that have used biofuels for their commercial flights include Azul Airlines, British Airways, Jet Blue, KLM, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Australia, and Virgin Atlantic.

Soy-based Asphalt

Did you know there are more than 4 million miles of paved roads in the U.S.?

Traditionally, construction crews use asphalt made with a synthetic rubber known as polybutadiene to make the asphalt less likely to crack under tire pressure and harsh weather conditions. While functional, it’s become problematic to use synthetic rubbers since they are usually petroleum-based, which is no longer a cost-effective or eco-friendly ingredient. With the rising of cost of petroleum, it costs almost $90,000 to pave one traffic lane for one mile using traditional asphalt products, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation!

But good news: soy-based asphalt was recently discovered at Iowa State University! The new product is not only more environmentally friendly, but it can reduce paving costs by as much as 80%. Discovered after ten years of research, the new product line, Invigorate, uses high-oleic soybean oil to increase the flexibility in asphalt as well as slow aging and cracking in pavement. Launched by a new start-up company, SoyLei Innovations, Invigorate is now commercially available.

Keep Moving with U.S. Soy

U.S. soy has proven to be a great asset for the transportation industry, and it will likely stay at the center of research for years to come, due to its versatility and sustainability.

Want to learn more about the many uses of soy beyond food? Explore how soy shows up in personal care products and learn how to enhance your home with soy-based products.