By on November 30, 2009

The EPA is set to rule as soon as tomorrow on the so-called “blend cap,” which forbids the sale of gasoline with more than ten percent ethanol. The petition to raise the blend cap came from a relatively new pro-ethanol lobbying group, Growth Energy, which requested the cap be moved to fifteen percent ethanol. Growth Energy’s request cites foreign oil dependence, “green-collar jobs” and the future of cellulosic ethanol as reasons to bump the blend cap, but as the New York Times reports, the real problem is that the ten percent limit is bumping up against a congressional mandate to blend 15b gallons of biofuels with gasoline by 2012. What the Times fails to mention is the financial incentive for raising the blend cap: the 51 cent-per-gallon of ethanol blended tax credit. In 2007, when gas consumption was at an all-time high and ethanol blending mandates required a mere 4.7b gallons (with 7b actually blended), that credit cost taxpayers nearly $3b. In 2012, when the mandate hits 15b gallons, the taxpayer tab will be closer to $7.65b.

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers is warning that higher blends of ethanol will cut the lives of catalytic converters in half, while E85 (85 percent ethanol, used only by “flex-fuel” vehicles) is 31 cents per gallon more expensive than gas when its lower efficiency is factored in. The reality is that meeting blending mandates has simply become more difficult because they were legislated in 2007, when few saw reason to project downward trends in fuel consumption. As Americans struggle with economic downturn, and as the auto industry improves its fuel-efficient offerings, the ethanol blending mandates represent nothing more than a burden without meaningful reward. Here’s hoping the EPA stands strong on the ten percent limit, and the discussion moves towards limiting the public expense of the ethanol industry.

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19 Comments on “E85 Boondoggle Of The Week: Blend Cap Decision Coming This Week...”

  • avatar

    If this passes, everyone who has fuel system, engine, and emmision control system failures should send their bills to the EPA.  Talk about a boondoggle.

  • avatar

    The EPA is evil. Plain and simple.

  • avatar

    Um, excuse me, but if the cap is 10%, and as the banner photo suggests the lobby wants to increase the cap by 5%, wouldn’t the new cap be, well, 12%?  (Instead of 15%, which would be a 50% increase?)  Am I losing my grip on math %-by-%??

    • 0 avatar

      It a 5% increase in the percentage of ethanol in the total fuel, from 10% ethanol 90% gasoline, to 15% ethanol 85% gasoline.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re correct in principle, but your math is off. (5% of 10 is 0.5, so by that logic the cap would be 10.5%.) But as has been pointed out, the proposal is for a five-percentage-point increase, from 10% to 15%.

    • 0 avatar

      No it’s 5% out of the total 100% fuel. They want to increase the current 10% ethanol by another 5% of the total fuel, not a 5% increase of current ethanol levels.

  • avatar

    Bad for fuel systems, bad for fuel economy, just plain bad.

  • avatar

    Robert.Walter: you’ll find that ethanol lobbyists (like all lobbyists) thrive on fuzzy math. Growth Energy’s petition can be found in PDF form here, and it clearly calls for E15, which would be a 50 percent increase in the allowable blending percentage.

  • avatar

    Can’t wait to hearthe spin  from the ethanol plant lobbyist that popped up here a while ago…

  • avatar

    This is just plain dumb.  If this goes through, I hope all pumps indicate whether they have more than 10% ethanol.  I’ll avoid such pumps like the plague — why would I want to put more ethanol in my tank than the manufacturer recommends?

  • avatar
    Corky Boyd

    Does Congress know they will be voiding warranties on all (non E85) vehicles now being sold in the USA.  All are for 10% max ethanol.  Well maybe they do.  This will save Government Motors a heapful.  The will blame every problem on improper fuel.

    Let’s call this bill Warranty Autovoid.

  • avatar

    Does TTAC really treat the ethanol issue in a fair and balanced way?
    I do NOT believe that human / animal food crops should EVER be used in ethnol production. But things get hazy when we talk about sugar beets and sugar cane and food waste.
    Also, why does it make economic sense to extract oil from the Tar Sands in Alberta by using Natural Gas to inject steam into the earth? This kind of extraction seems as if it could drive up the cost of natural gas and cause environmental damage. I don’t see anyone on this site complaining about all the damage done by oil extraction.
    I don’t think we can even think about burning fossil fuels anymore with thinking about the carbon impact. To many people, global climate change is no longer a scientific issue but is more like a belief issue. I think a comparison to the evolution / creationism debate is accurate.
    So, yes, ethanol policy is complicated. I just do not see it being presented in a balanced way – so far. I would like to hear from someone from the ethanol industry.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem is that you can’t say “Well, this isn’t from *food* crops, this is from *non-food* crops.”  If better sales and revenue and profits for the farmers come from a crop that produces ethanol, whether it be corn, sugar, switchgrass, or whatever, then some farmers that currently produce food crops will switch to the ethanol crop.
      And on top of that, if you raise the price for all crops, by diverting production to something like ethanol (which is very questionable from both an energy standpoint and an economics standpoint i.e. replacing petrol-based product), then you will encourage the farming of more marginal land, the destruction of natural landforms, the further draining of aquifers and other water supplies (which have very high subsidy rates to farmers), and diversion of labor away from something that may be more productive.
      You might be interested in hearing from ethanol producers.  I’m not.  They’ve blown smoke up the butts of politicians for years, using rent-seeking tactics to get their uncompetitive product forced down our throats.  If you want to read their propaganda, I’m sure a google search for ‘ethanol benefits’ would get you started.

  • avatar

    Again neither the writer of the post nor any of the commenters dare mention Peak Oil.  

    We live in a world of limited liquid fossil fuel resources.  Oil is depleting and not being found in quantities large enough to replace usage over time.  Not only that,  some of our oil suppliers do not like us very much.  It is the real reason for 3 costly wars in the last 20 years.

    It is pure fantasy that we can go on indefinitely like this.  Electric cars are a limited solution to the oil problem.  Ethanol is only a partial solution, but those who oppose it have no solution.  They live in a fantasy world and must not care much if their car centric lives collapse someday.


    • 0 avatar

      Ethanol isn’t a partial solution to anything.  How are you going to power the agriculture industry without oil?
      In my future fantasy world, we’re using a lot less energy by living cheaply, because we’re all much poorer.

    • 0 avatar

      In the future, Americans are going to discover LPG (propane/butane) and CNG (methane) powered cars.  LPG is already very popular in Australia, while some European countries are embracing CNG.  Both are extracted straight out of the ground like oil, but unlike oil are cheap and in abundance (especially methane).  A properly engineered LPG car (vapour or liquid injection) is just as fast and has the same range as a traditional gasoline powered car, but costs a lot less to run.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with rpn, Ethanol is a partial solution in the same way that walking partway from one island to another island is a partial solution to getting to the other island.  If that’s what you do, you drown anyway.
      97escort, you’re also wrong that we have to have an answer now.  Every single day, efficiencies on gasoline (and other liquid fuel) engines are improving.  Every single day, battery tech is getting better.  Every single day, solar cells get cheaper.
      And Peak Oil is a red herring.  Even if we’ve come to a point where extracting further oil is getting progressively more expensive, there’s no magical tipping point where the price of oil being produced will instantly jump two- or three-fold.  It will have an increasing price, and at some point these other technologies will become competitive on a non-subsidized cost basis.  But until that point, to force ourselves and others to jump to uncompetitive technologies is just destroying value, which helps noone except the rent-seekers in those uncompetitive technologies.

    • 0 avatar

      Nope, bring on the Resource Wars.

      Until then, quit pouring corn syrup in my fuel tank.

  • avatar

    I long for the days of real gas.  Ethanol rotted the carbs of my jetski.  It’s less hp for my car.  The net energy gain is not clear.  Why do it ?
    Oh yes, subsidies.   Sorry.
    Ethanol is for drinking, not your car.

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