One of the world’s largest tire companies claims to have developed a plant-based vehicle tire that could deliver a better performance than conventional rubber tires, while also reducing consumption of petroleum-based oil.
Goodyear, which manufactures products in 22 countries around the world, said that by using soybean oil in tires, it can potentially increase tread life by 10 percent and reduce the tiremaker’s use of petroleum-based oil by up to seven million gallons each year.
In recent months, the company has been testing rubber compounds made with soybean oil instead of petroleum oil. It found that the soybean oil blends more easily with the silica used in building tires. Goodyear claims this discover could improve plant efficiency and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: this is the ethanol debacle all over again. Many are opposed to the idea of using a food crop for non-food purposes, and fear that doing so will drive up already high food prices. In most cases I would agree, but soybeans are a little bit different. Almost 60 percent of all soybeans in the world are genetically modified. In the United States, the levels are even higher, coming in at about 85 percent. That means pretty much any non-organic soy grown in the U.S. is bad for you and should be avoided.
Since we can’t immediately eliminate all of the GMO soy, why not divert it from the food supply by making tires? Soy farmers will still get paid, tires will become more efficient, and the global demand for oil will be reduced. It’s a win, win, win.
Prototype tires built in Lawton will be tested at Goodyear’s Proving Grounds in San Angelo, Texas in the coming months. If indicators remain positive, Goodyear expects consumers will be able to purchase tires made with soybean oil as early as 2015.