E85 Boondoggle of the Day: E85's Future Still Up in the Air

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

The E85 industry has a problem. Well, a bunch of problems: corn prices, water supplies, environmental impact, flagging political support for subsidies, limited access to the marketplace and profitability. Yes, there is that. Or, more precisely, there isn’t that. If only the feds could find a way to force the country to use the corn juice . . . I’ll see your mandatory E10 and raise however hell as much as I can get away with. The thing of it is: when there’s a choice, people aren’t buying E85. What’s left of the ethanol industry post-gas price drop has convinced itself that it suffers from a near-lethal perception gap. (Remember: no one ever died defending a corn field.) As we recently reported, the Department of Energy is spending $2 million of federal funds to help you discover that E85 isn’t really cheaper when you factor-in the mpg drop. Anyway, Evolution Fuels has announced that it wants some of that taxpayer loot.

Here’s the wind-up . . . here’s the pitch . . .

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, there is currently 12.5 billion gallons of annual ethanol production capacity, of which 2 billion is idle. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), passed by Congress in December 2007, increased the minimum quantity of renewable fuel required to be blended into gasoline from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Where is it going to go? The industry will need a plan to incentivize the distribution and retailing of the product. A great deal of work has been done in this regard and overall achievement is not as distant as some might have you believe. Tests and research has been conducted by groups in collaboration with the DOE that show blends of up to 20% ethanol can be used in most legacy automobiles.

So, how about some more DOE-funded Evolutionary FUD? We shall see.

Meanwhile, E85 plant builders Fagen Inc. may also claim a turn on the teat. They’re the ethanol boosters behind acrobatic pilot Greg Poe, currently winging his way to the Selfridge Air Show. Poe’s MX-2 Thunder is powered by—and festooned with promotions for—E85. Presumably. ‘Cause if we doubted that we’d have to wonder about this statement from Poe’s website: “Every Fagen built plant is a financial success.”

[NB: Any connection between the soundtrack of this video and the previous post on Savannah Stern are purely coincidental.]

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

More by Robert Farago

Join the conversation
2 of 10 comments
  • E85_STi E85_STi on Aug 11, 2009

    Indy racecars, American Lemans racecars, GP Moto racebikes and moonshiners all share commonalities, including: 1. They think stuffed industry shirts who pimp for Big Oil make great Buick Lucerne spokespersons; 2. Everything they need to know about life pretty much sprang from a 3rd grade science class where they got to make 190 proof ethyl alcohol; 3. Higher compression engines are more fun to drive and work on than lower; 4. Now that police forces are retrofitting/switching to ethanol powered fleets, they'll have to up their game; 5. Don't give a rat's turd if ethanol production takes 2 lbs of inedible sugar @ pennies a pound, 10 gallons of water @ pennies a gallon, old beer or yeast @ less than pennies to produce several gallons of E100 ... 6. Willing to turn maybe 30 cents worth of materials into a full-tank of torque-doubling/low temperature burning/40-60+ percent cleaner; 7. They think that the renewable fuel mandate is the smartest thing since the brazilian bikini

  • John Williams John Williams on Aug 12, 2009
    "If only the feds could find a way to force the country to use the corn juice . . . I’ll see your mandatory E10 and raise however hell as much as I can get away with." Wonderful. Then I get to see my fuel economy dip even further. It's bad enough I see 16.5 when I should be seeing just about 18. Let's go ahead and sink that bad boy to about 14ish. I had enough of that shit when I had my Brougham.
  • ToolGuy I am slashing my food budget by 1%.
  • ToolGuy TG grows skeptical about his government protecting him from bad decisions.
  • Calrson Fan Jeff - Agree with what you said. I think currently an EV pick-up could work in a commercial/fleet application. As someone on this site stated, w/current tech. battery vehicles just do not scale well. EBFlex - No one wanted to hate the Cyber Truck more than me but I can't ignore all the new technology and innovative thinking that went into it. There is a lot I like about it. GM, Ford & Ram should incorporate some it's design cues into their ICE trucks.
  • Michael S6 Very confusing if the move is permanent or temporary.
  • Jrhurren Worked in Detroit 18 years, live 20 minutes away. Ren Cen is a gem, but a very terrible design inside. I’m surprised GM stuck it out as long as they did there.