E85 Boondoggle of the Day: Ethanol Industry Hits the "Blend Wall," Calls for E15– and Beyond!

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
e85 boondoggle of the day ethanol industry hits the blend wall calls for e15 and

Never let it be said that TTAC doesn’t kick a bad idea when it’s down. (It’s the best way to make sure it stays down.) Obviously, it’s no secret that myself and several members of TTAC’s crack (smoking) freelance team consider E85 the biggest boondoggle outside of the Motown meltdown boondoggle. Corn juice for fuel is a fundamentally flawed concept on environmental, energy, practical and even a geo-political basis. But even as the U.S. ethanol customers line-up none deep for their chance to prove that “no one ever died defending a corn field,” even as the ethanol industry continues to block cheap E85 imports from Brazil, even as the major players suck-up to Uncle Sugar to secure a $1b bailout (no really) to stay alive in a business where they already enjoy a .50 a gallon “blender’s credit” and a federal requirement for someone somewhere to use the stuff (a.k.a. the 36b gallon by 2020 Renewable Fuels Standard), they’re shifted gears to open a second front in their war against common sense. AG Week reports that the push for a federal mandate to raise the ethanol content in regular gas from E10 to E15 (and beyond) continues apace.

Yes, the ethanol industry is crying that they’re up against the “blend wall” (MFer).

“Most notable of those obstacles is an EPA regulation stating that gasoline intended for use by nonflex-fuel vehicles cannot be blended with more than 10 percent ethanol. By not allowing greater percentages of ethanol to be blended with gasoline, more ethanol will be produced than can legally be distributed, and therefore consumed, creating what has been termed a “blend wall.” Hitting this blend wall would effectively bring industry growth to a standstill and significantly undermine the progress we have made in establishing renewable biofuels as a critical component in our country’s diverse energy portfolio. Additionally, the blend wall’s effect on the ethanol industry would adversely impact efforts to develop promising advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel.”

So no cellulosic unless you buy our GD E85? Bummer. Now, about that “other” bailout…

“Many objections have been raised in response to calls for increasing the amount of ethanol than can be blended with gasoline, many coming from the U.S. automobile industry. However, at a time when the U.S. auto industry is requesting federal assistance from Congress, I think any aid should not only contain significant taxpayer protections, but also require serious and bold steps on behalf of the automakers to help our country move toward greater energy independence.

“That’s why I recently wrote Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank requesting that to access federal financing, U.S. automakers should: Redouble their commitment to meet or exceed fuel economy standards set for them by Congress; agree not to place unfounded warranty objections in the way of the widespread adoption of mid-range ethanol blends such as E15 for use in standard vehicles; and transform their aspirational goal for the production of flex-fuel vehicles — 50 percent of production by 2012 — to a hard and enforceable goal of reaching that level by 2012 or earlier.”

What happened to the days when companies made money by offering better products and services?

Join the conversation
2 of 21 comments
  • Dzwax Dzwax on Dec 31, 2008

    Politicians are not capable of making correct decisions on their own. They need experts to tell them what is right. The experts on bio fuels are all the same players that are plugged into the farm subsidy scam. Whether you like it or not, farming is essentially fixing of carbon (high energy bonds) with solar energy as the energy source. Base line analysis of the problem of bio fuels has to begin with the same calculations that are used by the solar energy industry. What are the demonstrated capture percentages of corn? That is, how much of the energy that strikes that corn field is actually captured and stored. Hint, It's really low. What other options (think primary producers) are known to have much higher yields. (Amount of solar energy captured and fixed in carbon-carbon bonds per acre per year? What are the costs per btu?

  • Qfrog Qfrog on Dec 31, 2008

    The only thing I like ethanol for... is a fuel for heavily turbocharged engines as the reduced energy content and increased volume of fuel is great for reducing combustion chambers temps as they are being cram fed several atmospheres of air/fuel mixture (2 litre I4 engine eating for 6 litres of V8). E85 is kinda like having cheap(er) liquid crack(race fuel) which is propulsive bliss when smoked in the turbonium crack pipe. Not for consumption by every Joe, Jane and Jackie... your mileage may vary, seek professional tuning help before allowing your engine to imbibe such chemical cocktails. Oh crap... thats not what it was meant for. Hrm.

  • Frank Wait until the gov't subsidies end, you aint seen nothing yet. Ive been "on the floor" when they pulled them for fuel efficient vehicles back during/after the recession and the sales of those cars stopped dead in their tracks
  • Vulpine The issue is really stupidly simple; both names can be taken the wrong way by those who enjoy abusing language. Implying a certain piece of anatomy is a sign of juvenile idiocy which is what triggered the original name-change. The problem was not caused by the company but rather by those who continuously ridiculed the original name for the purpose of VERY low-brow humor.
  • Sgeffe There's someone around where I live who has a recent WRX-STi, but the few times I've been behind this guy, he's always driving right at the underposted arbitrary numbers that some politician pulled out of their backside and slapped on a sign! With no gendarmes or schoolkids present! Haven't been behind this driver on the freeway, but my guess is that he does the left lane police thing with the best of 'em!What's the point of buying such a vehicle if you're never going to exceed a speed limit? (And I've pondered that whilst in line in the left lane at 63mph behind a couple of Accord V6s, as well as an AMG E-Klasse!)
  • Mebgardner I'm not the market for a malleable Tuner / Track model, so I dont know: If you are considering a purchase of one of these, do you consider the Insurance Cost Of Ownership aspect? Or just screw it, I'm gonna buy it no matter.The WRX is at the top of the Insurance Cost pole for tuner models, is why I ask.
  • Mebgardner Wishing for the day of open source software in EVs, including the OS. Lets have some transparency in the algorithms and controls. No Fair data hoovering my phone when connected.I'm also wondering at the level of CANBus components in this vehicle.