By on November 18, 2013

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While ethanol producers have been lobbying to increase the blend of that alcohol in standard gasoline to 15%, many in the auto industry have opposed that increase, saying that it could damage cars. Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has, for the first time, proposed reducing the ethanol requirement in the nation’s fuel supply. Actually, what they are proposing is a smaller increase in the overall use of ethanol, which means that the national standard may not be raised to E15.

Enough ethanol is being produced to meet the EPA’s current requirements. Most of that is used to make E10, a 10% ethanol / 90% gasoline mix, and E85, which is 85% ethanol. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the Renewable Fuels Standard mandate increasing the amount of ethanol used in the national fuel supply, but the EPA is facing what has been called the “blend wall”. If any more alcohol is mixed into regular gas it will push the overall blend above 10%, which could create problems with the fuel systems of cars.

The requirements project a use of 15-15.52 billion gallons of ethanol and the EPA is recommending that refiners and blenders use a total of 15.21 billion gallons, within the lower range of the projections.

Says the EPA:

[The] EPA is proposing to adjust the applicable volumes of advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel to address projected availability of qualifying renewable fuels and limitations in the volume of ethanol that can be consumed in gasoline given practical constraints on the supply of higher ethanol blends to the vehicles that can use them and other limits on ethanol blend levels in gasoline.

The move was praised by the oil industry and criticized by ethanol makers and farmers.

Biofuel supporters were even more disappointed than those backing corn ethanol, with the EPA proposing to significantly reduce the cellulosic biofuel standard. Producers haven’t been able to make anywhere near the original standards.

The EPA said, “Based on an assessment of the available volumes of cellulosic biofuels, EPA is proposing to set the cellulosic biofuel standard at 17 million gallons, significantly lower than CAA target of 1.75 billion gallons (PDF).”

These are proposed changes in the rules. There will be a period for public comment followed by hearings before any of the proposals are given the force of law.

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29 Comments on “For First Time, E.P.A. Proposes Cutting Renewable Fuel Standards’ 2014 Ethanol Requirement for Gasoline Blends...”


  • avatar
    racebeer

    Please … someone slap me. I’m thinking this must be one of the first times the EPA has actually used any logic in the whole biofuels scenario. This must make the corn lobby (ADM) really, really, really angry, which is a good thing!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      Tell me about it.

      But, their hands were forced in this matter. Upping the ethanol requirement like this article says mandates e15. The problem is e15 needs separate tanks, which no gas station will invest in, and no one will likely use e15 anyway.

      Not to mention corn based ethanol is a horrible horrible idea. It uses more oil to make the damn stuff than it replaces.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        This is why I don’t want to see E15 get its foot in the door–if it does, it will eventually be mandated just like E10 is.

        But I don’t have a fundamental problem with ethanol, so long as it comes from waste products, algae, or something better than corn. I also would prefer that it be used in higher compression ratio engines to properly benefit from its unique properties.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    No tears shed for the corn lobby, they’ll make it back selling corn as either feed or food internationally. Face it we are hooked on high fructose corn products.

    My beef with this wasted effort / subsidy to the corn lobby is that it is supposed to reduce “greenhouse gases”. Due to the energy input – the whole process of growing corn for fuel is at best nearly “green house neutral”.

    Last but not least, newer vehicles have increase their fuel mileage significantly. This means the carbon foot print of to drive a new vehicle 100 miles is less than it was 10 years ago. Please, give me the option of running straight, 100% gasoline – so, I can increase my present fuel mileage by 10% on the highway.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      Don’t even get me started on HFCS. I love leaving the country and drinking, and eating things with sugar.

      My personal opinion is i can sense the sugar better than HFCS and you consume much much less.

      But, damn this country and the tariff on sugar. I’d rather pay Brazil for real sugar than growing a crop that is so inefficient to get sugar from.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        Anything which requires a government subsidy and as much processing as HFCS does to become a sweetener cannot be good for you. It’s taken a little bit of homework to keep it out of the house but I feel much better as a result.

        And for those seeking greater condemnation beyond this article, the normally pro-green and alarmist Huffpo recently ran an article regarding the damage being done in the name of biofuels.

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/12/ethanol-investigation_n_4258796.html

  • avatar
    sandmed

    There is no magical 10% limit where ethanol starts to damage your engine. ANY ethanol compromises an engine and fuel system. It’s just a question of how much.

    • 0 avatar
      69firebird

      Yes!…and the quicker it goes away the better.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow, by that meausure all cars in Brazil should be stopped on the side of the road as the alcohol content in our gasoline +/-27%, yet somehow they, for the most part, are running. Makers know a thing or 2 how to avoid most problems.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Marcelo, the rubber fuel hoses, carburetor gaskets and seals of older cars in America deteriorate faster when there is alcohol in the mix.

        We can smell older cars in Mall parking lots just oozing E-10 from their fuel systems. There has also been an increase in spontaneous underhood fires in these older cars.

        Most newer cars sold in America can run all the way up to 85% alcohol, and in many agricultural areas in America E-85 is all there is.

        There are millions of older cars still on the road in America. Many of the owners cannot afford to buy a newer vehicle.

        The goal of the environmentalist green weenie ultra left liberal Democrats in America is to take those old cars off the road, something they also tried to do during Cash for Clunkers.

        The EPA is currently run by the environmentalist green weenie ultra left liberal Democrats and there is a war on coal and a war on gasoline going on, in spite of the increased availability of oil in North America.

        • 0 avatar

          Hey HDC, as per usual you’re absolutely right. Owners of older cars (and many brand new imported ones, too) just had to adapt. The government was even more heavy handed. When they change fuel standards, tough luck. Here no fuel with lead, no e0, nothing. What happened was that replacement part became ethanol resistant and the cars run and last well enough. Of course, the alcohol in Brazil contains water and i forget whether that makes it easier or not on the cars.

          I too wonder about the future of all of this. Brazil is tapping into some major oil reserves as we speak. Could be that soon there’d be no ‘need’ for an alcohol based matrix in Brazil. Then it’d become just political to keep alcohol. It’ll be interesting to watch developments.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Hey Marcelo! To be sure, I am on the record as being in favor of all sorts of “alternative fuels” and “alternative modes of propulsion” like EVs, PEVs, Hybrids, PHEVs, natgas, CNG, Ethanol, Alcohol, peanut oil, bio-diesel, LPG, fuelcells, etc. The more the merrier!

            Whatever works for the end-user and is most advantageous in their locale.

            In a densely populated area like a metropolis, PEVs could be the answer, although my brother in Manhattan, NY, would dispute that since he was sorely disappointed in the lack of use his Leaf received.

            Maybe things will change for the better in the future since he was an early adopter and public charging stations were few and far between, or often blocked by ICE vehicles parked in front of the chargers. Where are the cops when you need them?

            In a primarily agricultural region E-85 could be the most advantageous fuel mix.

            What I am against is subsidizing these alternatives at taxpayer expense. I’m in favor of letting the market place sort itself out in direct proportions to public wants, needs, and ‘nice to haves’.

            That’s what they did in Europe as far back as 1972 when I first went there with the US military, and some of the tech had been around since long before that.

            I loved the CNG/gasoline Opel Ambassador I ‘bought’ from my wife’s uncle in Heidelberg and used as my daily driver for several years.

            So I think there is room for any and all modes of transportation in America as well.

            But when the American government gets involved, like in mandating the fuel mixes for political reasons, a lot of innocent, everyday people without a lot of money get hurt in the process.

            The State where I live, New Mexico, wants to mandate E-15 at the earliest opportunity even though NM is awash in oil, a producer and exporter with refineries of its own.

            A lot has to do with the overabundance of both oil AND ethanol production in this state.

            And then there’s the natgas in NM that’s burned off 24/7 because there is so little demand and storage for it.

            The only place where we can buy pure-gas in my area these days is at a general-aviation airport.

            AVGAS here is 110/115 octane and has to be mixed down to 100 octane or less for use in cars, but some people with older, hi-compression engines are still using that method of fueling their old cars in this area.

            In the end, when government mandates things, the ‘little people’, the ones with very little money, are going to get hurt where their finances and transportation needs intersect.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          The ethanol standards are welfare for farmers (as you note, rural areas are where E85 is popular, not San Francisco). Environmentalists oppose them.

          Agricultural subsidies and military jobs are the big welfare programs in the US. For people that are not skilled enough to compete in a private market without the government helping them.

          Try to cut either welfare program and you will unfortunately run into a lot of political resistance.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Agreed!

            NASA was such a welfare recipient for decades yet its spin-offs have touched many individual lives long after the end of the space programs.

            My personal experience with one of the better spin-offs from all this welfare, that enjoys a wide application throughout the health industry today, is the “Oxygen Concentrator”.

            When my wife’s parents were diagnosed with sleep apnia and needed to be placed on nocturnal oxygen before they became Medicare eligible, their insurance company gave them an oxygen concentrator each, outright. But there was no one in our area to maintain, service or repair them, at that time.

            This is where I became an expert maintainer and rebuilder of the Invacare Platinum 5 Oxygen Concentrator.

            Old and cumbersome by today’s standards of oxygen concentrators, these machines were overbuilt and will last decades with minimal maintenance and care.

            And let’s not forget about the micro-miniaturization of electronics in support of the space program and how that has found its way into today’s consumer electronics.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    “The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007″
    Instead of a grandiose and patriotic-sounding names, this should be called the “corn grower’s strategic growth plan achievable by screwing up american motorists”.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I saw this over the weekend and I was so pleasantly surprised. My wife works for EPA (has nothing to do with any of this) so obviously I want them to exist so our bills get paid. But this whole ethanol garbage really makes me rethink that stance.
    I’m thrilled with the decision, but until it is lowered to 0% I won’t be satisfied. Big Farm is ruining my car and making me side with Big Oil. That really pisses me off.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    The pro-3rd World Starvation lobby isn’t going to like this one bit.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      No, no, there’s no third-world starvation lobby. The plan is to tax the first world using the global warming scare, soon to be the global cooling scare, and use the money to induce the third world to forego development. The UN will parcel out minimal rations of food and medicine to the third world in return, with a kind of spay and neuter program working behind the scenes to reduce world population to numbers the world’s intellectual elite are comfortable with.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    By the way, when did Congress acquire the power to dictate ingredients in products? Can they, through “delegating” to an agency like the EPA, dictate what ingredients go into cookies or drugs or cosmetics? There are rules regulating what can’t be put in products in the interest of public safety, but where’s the justification for mandating an addition to fuels that doesn’t clean the air, and in fact reduces fuel economy?

    By the same token, where’s the Congress’ authority to impose CAFE? Sure it “helps” reduce reliance on imported oil (ignoring an alternative: increasing domestic supply), but that’s a government policy goal. Since when can American companies be forced to participate in achieving an administration’s policy goals, absent a declaration of war?

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Has your dishwasher been less effective in the last couple of years?
      If so it’s because some states have banned phosphorous in dishwashing powder, and thus most washing powders no longer contain phosphorous.

      There’s an example of what the environmentalist lobby has been doing.

      And for your dishwasher problems search TSP, make sure you buy it with phosphorous.
      Perfume has also been subject to similar problems.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Only a minority even question the power of government to do whatever it wants any more. People have been brought and educated to assume the government has virtually unlimited authority with some exceptions for criminal suspects and speech (off-campus). The concept of limited government has been almost entirely destroyed. Most people can’t even comprehend it and would be against it if they could. People want the government to take care of them.

  • avatar
    Iowabaseball

    I don’t know about other places but here in Iowa all the 87 and 89 gas is now the 10% ethanol blend. So you’re SOL if you don’t like to fill up your car with ethanol but don’t want to pay the money for premium. It wasn’t a huge deal for me since I already was putting premium in my Mustang, but I know quite a few people who are pretty frustrated with the switch.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I think some of you guys miss the real purpose of the corn subsidies. Less about supporting the farmers and more of a corporate subsidy. Anyone that is familiar with farming knows that corn is grown mainly using Monsanto seed and Roundup. Many farmers use no till method for planting crops such as corn. Before a field is planted the fields are sprayed with Roundup and then planted with Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn seed which is not effected by Roundup. No till methods not only help with soil erosion but save fuel by not having to till the fields. Sure the farmers get subsidies, good for candidates running for office trying to get the farm vote (great for Presidential Primaries in farm states such as Iowa). Corn is not even that good for you to eat especially as a sugar substitute.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Land Ark, I can understand your ambivalence about the EPA, it being your wife’s employer, but all I can say is I hope she can soon find employment with something other than the evil, fanatical EPA. An outfit with any integrity would be asking Congress to drop the insane ethanol mandate. Note that the EPA’s announcement is merely a reduction in GROWTH of ethanol use.

    Here in Oklahoma it’s easy to find pure gas–the stations proclaim they have the good stuff–and we don’t have to buy premium, either. Maybe the EPA has overlooked we rubes in flyover country. I pray that we can continue to find non-adulterated gasoline.


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