E85 Boondoggle of the Day: Blenders' Last Stand

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

The E85 industry is tanking. Despite federal mandates designed to foist the fuel on a suspecting public, and Transportation Secretary Chu’s determination to make all new vehicles Flex-Fuel capable (EPA credits for everyone!), the E85 industry is on the brink of extinction. Consumer demand (such as it wasn’t) is plummeting. Meanwhile, environmentalists threaten to expose the corn-for-fuel process as, gasp, carbon-positive. Evidence of pumps with ten-foot pole marks comes to us from Minnesota, the state with the highest number of E85 outlets in the land. Here’s the Star Tribune’s report, which can’t resist using the boosterrific term “clean burning” whilst charting the corn-based fuel’s demise:

In February, sales of E85, a cleaner-burning fuel consisting of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, hit their lowest mark since 2006, according to a new report by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Sales, which bottomed out around 1 million gallons per month, started to rebound this spring but are still lagging last year’s numbers.

In May, about 1.5 million gallons of E85 were sold — almost 1 million gallons less than in May 2008.

Subtract various initiatives forcing government workers to use corn juice, lose the numerous “promotions” used to fuel demand (which account for this picture), drop the subsidies and tax credits (God forbid) and the full extent of E85’s retreat is clear. In fact, it’s looking more and more like a rout.

Corn-for-fuel’s last stand is buried in the Climate Change Bill, as the New York Times reports, whilst kvetching about compromise.

Democratic leaders should nevertheless resist calls to weaken the targets on emissions reductions. The House bill is itself a compromise, and a weaker Senate bill could be worse than no bill at all.

The Senate should also remove the House version’s more glaring defects. Among these is a provision — inserted at the insistence of the farm lobby — that would postpone a systematic accounting of the carbon emissions from biofuels like corn ethanol. The farm lobby and its allies on the Agriculture Committee are clearly nervous that the accounting would cast corn ethanol in an unfavorable light.

As in reveal the truth. Can’t have that, now can we? Given that Archer Daniels Midland was a big supporter of our current president’s presidential aspirations ( flew him around on their jet), look for this boondoggle to die another day. Unless and until the feds force motorists to fill-up on E85, or E15, it’s a dead blend slouching towards Bethlehem.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Retroman Retroman on Jul 02, 2009

    From:http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/francis/archive/2008/04/04/obama-energy-policy-is-best-of-three.aspx "A new book, called “Energy Victory”, debunks these myths and makes the scientific case in favor of ethanol. It s written by scientist/engineer Dr. Robert Zubrin, a NASA consultant and researcher in Colorado. The book analyzes the energy input myth, citing the most recent and authoritative study, in Science Vol. 311 in January 2006: ethanol production requires one-tenth the amount of energy inputs as does gasoline production. (Sugar cane is a more efficient feedstock than corn used in North America, but corn is still dramatically more beneficial than crude-oil fuels.) Likewise, he maintains the subsidies are also mythology by lobbyists. Last year, for instance, he said the U.S. produced eight billion gallons of ethanol and the 50-cent subsidy cost taxpayers US$4 billion. But the eight billion gallons replaced the need to import US$20 billion worth of crude oil. By including all figures, the subsidy becomes an investment in saving billions."

  • Marman Marman on Jul 03, 2009

    @retroman I realize you are getting paid by the ethanol industry to astroturf the internet with their propaganda. Hey, if that is what puts bread on the table...so be it; there are far worse things you could be doing. ...ethanol production requires one-tenth the amount of energy inputs as does gasoline production. Half-truth: Sure, if you conveniently leave out all the other things which come out of a barrel of oil during refining. Sugar cane is a more efficient feedstock than corn used in North America truth: yes, sugar cane is more efficient (too bad it does not grown in the midwest). Opinion: ...but corn is still dramatically more beneficial than crude-oil fuels.) Lie: Likewise, he maintains the subsidies are also mythology by lobbyists. Ethanol is heavily subsidized meaningless statement: Last year, for instance, he said the U.S. produced eight billion gallons of ethanol and the 50-cent subsidy cost taxpayers US$4 billion. But the eight billion gallons replaced the need to import US$20 billion worth of crude oil. By including all figures, the subsidy becomes an investment in saving billions. How are taxpayer subsidies for ethanol related to the value of imported oil?

  • Mike Some Evs are hitting their 3 year lease residual values in 6 months.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I am just here for the beer! (did I say it right?)
  • El scotto Tim, to be tactful I think a great many of us would like a transcript of TTAC's podcast. 90 minutes is just too long for most of us to listen. -evil El Scotto kicking in- The blog at best provides amusement, 90 minutes is just too much. Way too much.
  • TooManyCars VoGhost; I was referring more to the Canadian context, but the same graft is occurring in the US of A and Europe. Political affiliation appears to be irrelevant.
  • The Oracle Going to see a lot of corporations migrating out of Delaware as the state of incorporation. Musk sets trends, he doesn’t follow them.
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