The EPA is currently soliciting comment on a proposed waiver to allow 15 percent ethanol blends (E15), and despite enduring a year of hard knocks, the ethanol lobby is making a desperate stand to reverse its declining fortunes. Peruse already-submitted comments, and you’ll notice that Growth Energy (the new K-Street tip of the ethanol spear) dominates the list with a host of spurious “supporting materials.” The group’s main argument (PDF) is fine-tuned for the jobs-crazed economic-political climate, centering around the assertion that “according to one estimate, allowing blending of E15 has the potential to create at least 135,000 jobs.” Which sounds great as long as you don’t look at the “hidden” cost of increasing blending credit receipts. Needless to say, Growth Energy isn’t asking anyone to go there, having helpfully created some talking points to help make commenting easier. We suggest commenting on the proposed waiver as well, but rather than dutifully regurgitating GE’s talking points why don’t you go through our E85 archive first. Or check out a few recent news stories after the jump which illustrate our unrelenting skepticism of so called intermediate ethanol blends.
For starters, check out this recent post to GM’s Fastlane blog, detailing the need for more testing of intermediate ethanol blends. In the words of GM Biofuels Implementation Manager, Coleman Jones, “GM is a big supporter of ethanol as an alternative fuel to help reduce petroleum use, but with respect to mid-level blends, there is a lot of testing that needs to happen before such a change is made.” Jones states that the only testing to be done on the engine impacts of E20 were done six years ago in Australia, and those showed catalyst damage on 40 percent of tested vehicles. And this comes from ethanol’s biggest backer outside of the energy industry. Not that GM is backing away from ethanol, though. As Jones puts it, “widespread use of E85 is the best and likely the only way to meet the 36 billion gallons of ethanol in 2022.”
Of course the “mandatory flexibility” approach is going to run into trouble as well, especially since California is preparing fuel carbon standards which the ethanol lobby claims “unfairly targets” their grift. Er, industry. The SF Chronicle reports that the rules, aimed at reducing fuel “carbon density,” take into account not only the carbon released through consumption, but also through production. Naturally, corn ethanol has some of the worst production-end carbon intensivity, a fact that Growth Energy’s Wesley Clark is happy to obfuscate. “Why should American ethanol makers be made responsible for Brazil’s policies on deforestation?” asks the former General, demonstrating his new-found K-street debate-shifting ninja skills. Because midwest corn ethanol scores worse than any other fuel, with land-use changes factored in. Sir.
And as goes California, so goes every other halfway-crunchy state in the union these days. Oregon’s legislature is considering a host of anti-ethanol bills, as local pols begin to smell the populist blood in the water. “I hate ethanol,” admits Eugene Rep Vicky Walker. Why? Because like our own Menno, Ms Walker has seen her Prius mileage drop since E10 hit the streets.