By on March 19, 2009

Green Car Congress reports that an “Open Fuel Standards Act” has been introduced which would require half of all light duty vehicles sold in the US to be flex-fuel capable. The legislation would ramp up requirements to mandate 80 percent flex-fuel capability by 2015. Since ethanol has been running into trouble of late, the industry’s plan now centers on forcing OEMs to bring flex-fuel capability across their lineups, which supporters say will drive greater availability of E85 pumps. The plan would also enable the proliferation of mid-range ethanol blends like E20 and E30, since E85-capable flex-fuel vehicles would also be able to run on the intermediate blends that the ethanol industry so desperately wants to become mainstream. The only waivers for this mandate would be for OEMs who can prove that ethanol fuels prevent plug-in hybrids and other alt-energy vehicles to flunk state emission standards. Meanwhile, as rules are being written for the Renewable Fuel Standard, and a group of Senators are moving to prevent the use of indirect land use change (ILUC) to calculate the total GHG output of biofuels.

The law mandates measurement of “direct emissions and significant indirect emissions such as significant emissions from land use changes, as determined by the Administrator.” And though there are many complexities in attempting to calculate the full impact of biofuels, Senators don’t see this as a challenge to be undertaken, but a baby to be thrown out with the bathwater. The senators “urge EPA to refrain from including any calculations of the ILUC components in determining life-cycle GHG emissions for biofuels at this time. The premature publication and use of inaccurate or incomplete data could compromise the ability to formulate a sound approach to implementing this life cycle GHG emissions requirement in the future. And the resultant rulemaking confusion could seriously harm our US biofuels growth strategy by introducing uncertainty and discouraging future investments.” Oh yeah, and we would have to find new campaign contributors too.

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24 Comments on “E85 Boondoggle Of The Day: Mandatory Flexibility...”

  • avatar

    “Pump with Pride”

    Was that a Jenna Jameson film….?

  • avatar

    The California Air Resources board (CARB) has now released methods for calculating GHG emissions for traffic lights, street lights, etc, but I’m certain our fine representatives will stand behind this push to ignore GHGs for ethanol. While I think this worrying about CO2 emissions is absurd at best, I hate the double standard applied depending on political correctness of your activity even more.

  • avatar
    George B

    Can flex-fuel vehicles use Methanol blends? I’ve read conflicting information. Would be funny if a mandate to attempt to help corn farmers while acting “green” created a market for coal to methanol synthetic fuel instead.

  • avatar

    You have to love the mandate to force us to use a grossly inefficient fuel like E85 across the fruited plain.
    Ford range pickup truck on E85 gets 13 on the highway at best. That’s about half of what dino juice gives. If it was half the cost the greatest annoyance would be filling up every 200 miles but, no we have to have all the road taxes on E85 too so that makes it cost a lot more than it is worth.

    How can we allow our representatives, experts in economics and human nature that they are, to sell us weaker fuel for more money?

    If the big pimple in all of this is buying oil from our overseas enemies then just drill domestically for the shit already. California has so much oil it bubbles out of the ground. Since CA uses so much and has so much say in how are cars are built, then CA should drill it’s own damn oil and leave the rest for us. Then they can do whatever they want out there and face their own consequences.

  • avatar

    Look at the ethanol boondoggle to see why the countries economy is going down the toilet.

  • avatar

    Paid $3.19/gallon for 65 gallons of pure gasoline to fill up my boat last week at a marina because you can not get 100% pure gasoline anywhere else in South Florida. I had been running E10 previously and I had to rebuild the carbs. I wish there was atleast one gas station on land that sold pure gasoline. At least for my classic cars. Price is no object, because ethanol is poison for my older cars and boat.

  • avatar

    I had to rebuild the carbs in my old bike for the same reason. Until I got the parts I schlepped alcohol free gas from two counties over. What a pain in the ass that was.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    What does it really take the make a vehicle flex-fuel compatible? I know about better rubber parts in the fuel system and a wider range of adaptability for the engine control system, but is there really anything else? Does anyone know what the real production cost adder is – not including extra badges :).

  • avatar

    Hate to say it, but we are what we elect. We have a bunch of lawyers trying to run a country by meddling in issues they don’t understand. And unfortunately, they are all professional politicians, a breed one level below slime. Until we the people decide to quit returning these unqualified dopes to their positions in Washington, the situation is only going to get worse. Just what exactly have these representatives done for us other than make anything they touch worse??

    Yeah, I’m a bit angry. I dislike both political partys, and never vote for an incumbent. The incest in Washington is worse than anything you will find in the “back woods”.

    Rant over … for now.

    Back to ethanol …. at least I can get the 100% dino stuff for my classic here in Minnesota. I even sometimes ignore the “warning” on the pump and put it in the ‘Bird. To hell with the corn lobby and their bought representatives.

  • avatar

    Great comment. Made me laugh out loud. Got strange looks from people in next cubicle.

  • avatar

    I’m actually lucky and found real 100% gasoline again. My 2008 Prius went from 40 to 44 mpg (winter average) down to 33 mpg on E10, when what I thought was the last station in the area to sell real 100% gasoline, went to E10 a few months ago. I found real gas again about a month ago. Thank God!

    My mileage on real gasoline over a week’s driving was about 50 this morning when I filled up. $6.50 worth of gas; 3 gallons, for 148 miles.

    The mileage is more similar to spring time because some of last week we actually were above 37 degrees F. (This is where the MPG on the Prius “goes bad” below and “goes good” above). You might say it’s the temperature tipping point.

    I’m still running full winter tires and fuel is still considered winter blend, BTW. (Both of these adversely affect MPG’s).

    E10 works out to be about a 20-30% reduction in MPG for my Prius.

    So with E10 blends in the Prius, I’m using 10-20% MORE CRUDE OIL to run it (not even counting the extra crude oil and natural gas and ground water used to manufacture the 10% ethanol plus ship it by truck for polluting – I mean mixing – with gasoline).

    Ethanol is the biggest boondoggle this country has had in decades. It may well end up to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    Pretty tough to seriously advocate feeding SUV’s instead of people, too.

    Real gasoline was $2.15 a gallon, E10 is $1.99 a gallon in my area. 7.5% more expensive. Worth it.

    I understand E10 plays havoc on boats and classic cars, for sure, for sure. If you have a fiberglass fuel tank in a boat, E10 MELTS THE DAMN TANK so you get fuel in your bilge. Not to mention muck (once fiberglass) in your carburetor.

  • avatar

    Christ it took me countless experimenting & researching to find low-to-none Ethanol pumps where I live. I don’t want more of that crap around.

  • avatar

    Anyone know the closest place to Chicago for _real_ 100% gasoline? I’m tempted to schlep 20-40 gallons to keep in the garage for my motorcycle.

  • avatar

    Come up to Canada lads. There’s some E10 around but it’s optional at a special pump.In the meantime, lots of Canadians are driving around with the “flexfuel” badge on the back of their vehicle, for which privilege they paid extra and which they cannot use. I’m calling them “Flexfools”.

  • avatar

    As with any technology, there are smart ways of applying them, and there are dumb ways of applying them.

    Corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel are dumb ways to create biofuels to substitute for petroleum.

    So is cutting down rain forest to grow oil palm trees.

    Unfortunately, since Big Agra in the US is all about corn and soybeans, that’s the primary focus of our biofuels efforts.

    If you read the actual proposal, it does make some salient points. However, the suggestion to completely ignore ILUC is truly dumb.

    I’m sure there’s some conservative estimate of ILUC effects that can be used until the uncertainties settle down.

  • avatar

    @George B :

    Can flex-fuel vehicles use Methanol blends? I’ve read conflicting information. Would be funny if a mandate to attempt to help corn farmers while acting “green” created a market for coal to methanol synthetic fuel instead.

    Funny, I seem to recall reading something about that recently…..

  • avatar

    I am not against people experimenting with E85 or Ewhatever. But there are two key points:

    1) Don’t use my tax money to pay for the research or infrastructure of E85. Look for venture capital. If no one is interested, probably it’s a bad idea. If someone invested and earned big, good for him.

    2) Don’t force it on buyers and sellers. Every buyer and seller should still have the right to buy or sell pure gasoline in this supposedly free country. Sellers will sell E85, if it’s profitable; buyers will buy E85, if it costs less overall. They are smart human being and don’t need the government to tell them what makes sense.

  • avatar

    “Basically, we suffocated, starved and went mad,” Jane Poynter, one of the Biospherians, was widely quoted as saying.

    Anybody remember Biosphere 2? I do. It’s about a small group of people who thought they had all the answers. And everytime I hear or read about E85, veggiefuel, biodiesel, ILUC, CO2 and GHG I think about it.

    E85 Boondoggle is correct. This is all political BS.

  • avatar

    Rather than a boondoggle for ethanol, a federal flex fuel mandate actually opens the door for competitors to ethanol, like methanol and butanol. The cost is pretty lost,~$100/car, considering how sophisticated the technology is. An infrared spectrometer analyzes the fuel content and the ECU adjusts things accordingly so the engine can run on 100% gasoline, 100% ethanol, 100% methanol, 100% butanol or any combination thereof.

  • avatar


    What about leaded airplane fuel? They used to sell 80 and 100 octane at all the small airports.

  • avatar

    The “investment” in ethanol would be better used by burning the stalks and other plant waste in a biomass generator and powering electric cars.

    Far more efficient, a local electricity supply to shore up the national grid, and we get electric cars.

    Now if only they flew. I was promised a flying car, and I want one.


  • avatar

    So what’s the trick for finding gas without ethanol? Around here (central VA), all pumps seem to have the weasel words “contains up to 10% ethanol” or they flat-out say “contains 10% ethanol.” On the other hand, I can’t say I’ve seen a mileage decline in my vehicles, including the 10+ year-old Nissan Frontier.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “Don’t use my tax money to pay for the research or infrastructure of E85. Look for venture capital. If no one is interested, probably it’s a bad idea. If someone invested and earned big, good for him.”

    You do know that the Internet and GPS technology both started as government funded projects, yes? To this day, GPS receivers rely on signals provided gratis by the US government’s network of GPS satellites.

  • avatar

    You do know that the Internet and GPS technology both started as government funded projects, yes? To this day, GPS receivers rely on signals provided gratis by the US government’s network of GPS satellites.

    You do know that both of those gov’t funded projects started out as defense projects, don’t you? Defense is a constitutionally mandated obligation of the federal government. Providing a subsidy for corn growers is not.

    Actually, the GPS system shows the basic goodness of the American people. We paid to develop a military technology that we decided was too valuable to mankind to use only as a weapon so we make it available, free of charge, to the entire world. Can you think of another country that has done likewise with its own proprietary military equipment?

    True, it could be argued that since armed forces need fuel (see: Imperial Japan’s struggle to provide their fleet with fuel and Nazi Germany’s coal>liquid fuel efforts), research on alcohol fuels could be done under DOD funding. Likewise with infrastructure, as was done with the Interstate highway system when the Eisenhower administration sold the highway system as vital to the nation’s defense (the curves on the Interstates are designed to allow a semi-tractor pulling an ICBM to travel 80 mph).

    Still, wsn’s point is valid: if a technology is commercially promising it should be able to find venture funding. GPS and the Interstate highways system were so expensive to implement, with little chance of immediate profitability, that only government could have funded them at the time.

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