By on June 18, 2010

America’s ethanol producers were some of the few Americans optimistic or cynical enough to find a bright side to the BP Gulf spill. Ethanol’s lobbyists-in-chief, GrowthEnergy, decided it would be real cute to run ads highlighting all the bad things ethanol hadn’t done. One of which is not “Ethanol has never harmed the Gulf of Mexico,” by the way. As the ad parody above points out though, even if the ethanol was creating a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico for years before the BP spill, there are quite a few other things ethanol hasn’t done. Like this, just in from the AP [via Google]: convince the EPA to buy into its shameful, manipulative PR line and rush a decision on increasing blending limits.

Not that it’s much of a victory. After all, not exploiting a tragic disaster to shove down wasteful subsidies is hardly something to brag about. And it’s looking like E15 (“normal” gas with 15 percent ethanol, instead of the federal cap of 10 percent) will be approved this fall, as there’s no other way for blenders to meet their subsidized 12b gallon 2010 blending mandate. Secretary of Agriculture Tim Vilsack tells the AP that tests look “good” and that discussing a timeline is a positive sign for ethanol.

With this green light, USDA is surging ahead on our work to provide support to feedstock producers, biofuel refiners and infrastructure installers, such as blender pumps, to ensure that all the pieces of the ethanol supply chain are ready to supply the market demand,

But the ethanol industry wasn’t having it. GrowthEnergy made a statement harping on the BP spill, the Renewable Fuel Association called for an interim approval of E12, and ArchersDanielMidland said it was “disappointed.” [via]. And all because the EPA wants to test vehicles (even then, only 2007 models and later) to prove they won’t be harmed by the 15 percent blends that the industry is so impatient for. But this is the second time the pro-ethanol forces have seen an E15 ruling delayed, and their billion dollar boondoggle needs to be fed to keep going. After all, when the ethanol industry talks about “demand,” they’re not referring to consumers, who have shown a marked distaste for the corn juice. Demand for ethanol begins and ends in Washington D.C.

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25 Comments on “EPA Resists Cheap BP Spill Symbolism, Delays Ethanol Blend Hike...”

  • avatar

    I stole this comment off another blog, but it pretty much matches my experience:
    “I do religiously check my fuel mileage and here is my experience using E10:

    Driving a compact pickup with a 4-cylinder engine I usually get about 32 mpg while driving at steady highway speeds and using gasoline.

    When using E10, my mileage drops to about 29 mpg.

    That means on a trip of 320 miles I would burn 10 gallons of gasoline. If I used E10 for the same trip, I would need just a bit less than 11 gallons.

    But, 90% of that E10 would be gasoline. That means when I burn 11 gallons of E10, I burn 9.9 gallons of gasoline.

    Whether I buy gasoline or E10, I burn almost exactly the same amount of gasoline, but if I use E10, I have to buy 11 gallons of fuel.”

    This country really needs a non-biased study to determine if there’s any benefit from using ethanol blends…aside from enriching the corn industry. I’m all for cutting petroleum use and (effective) green initiatives, but ethanol sure smells like snake oil.

    For anyone interested, there’s a lot of interesting comments on ethanol on that thread:

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, I want the ethanol fantasy to be true, but its just not. Include the oil costs to transport, grow the crops, fertilizer etc. and its just baloney. Pull the government money and its even crazier. This is a similar story to Hydrogen…. where does that come from? – Natural gas.. Ain’t no free lunch kids (unless we can get fusion working to split the hydrogen)…

    • 0 avatar

      +1. My experience exactly.

    • 0 avatar


      Even though E10 is about $.10 to $.15 cheaper here, The lower fuel economy makes it a bad buy.

    • 0 avatar
      The Walking Eye

      I keep a record of every fill-up and associated mileage myself, and I can usually tell if I got a batch of E10. Pumps in IN are marked, but often with a very small sign and I’m not always sure while filling up exactly what I’m getting.

      I’m fine with using higher blends of ethanol, as long as it’s coupled with engines that can utilize that so we don’t have a huge mileage penalty. I’m not an engine design engineer, so I’m not sure if this is possible with current tech. Anyone know?

  • avatar

    I am so thankful that Oklahoma requires signs on gas pumps to warn consumers of adulterated gasoline. The ethanol lobby can’t sneak it into the marketplace. The result is that it’s pretty easy to find stations that sell genuine gasoline–many have big banners advertising that fact.

    Which means I can buy fuel that my lawnmower will run good on.

    It’s surprising that this administration, that believes in “never allowing a crisis to go to waste,” hasn’t already leaped to impose ethanol blends of 15 or 20% on us.

    By the way: about that statement the “USDA is surging ahead”. Surging? Have you ever been in the Ag Dept’s headquarters? It reminded me of a mausoleum.

    • 0 avatar
      The Walking Eye

      “never allowing a crisis to go to waste”

      That applies to any political party and is simply part of capitalism. Some may not use a crisis, but others will and what political affiliation they have is irrelevant. Every administration has capitalized on some sort of crisis, and it’s easily arguable.

  • avatar

    Did you know the Gulf dead zone was less than half the size expected last year? It’s believed that was due to the Army Corps of Engineers stopping dredging on the Missouri River in 2008. Previously, they were dumping the (high phosphorus) dredged material into the channel where it was carried to the Mississippi Delta.

    I believe the tests are being done on the 2007 and newer vehicles because the original DOE tests were started in 2007 and thus didn’t include newer vehicles. You can read the first report here:

    • 0 avatar

      I took a quick gander at the study, they tested 13 cars built between 1999-2007, and ran them on E10, E15, and E20. Fuel economy on E10 dropped an average of 3.88%, on E15 it dropped 5.03%. There were some drops in emissions, which is nice, but I’m not sure the trade off is worth it.

  • avatar

    I’ve lost all respect for Wesley Clark now that he leads the ethanol bandwagon.

  • avatar

    Not to mention the biggest problem with ethanol: The net energy equation is a loser. We use more energy in growing, watering, fertilizing, pest management, refining, and transportation than we get for actually powering our vehicles. Hardly the path towards energy independence…

  • avatar

    Food prices will go up. Fuel economy will go down.

  • avatar

    In my area there’s “contains 10% ethanol” labels, but it doesn’t matter because every station has it, so its unavoidable. I think they should have at least one pump that’s pure gasoline for people who don’t like paying the same money for less MPG while risking potential damage to the car.

  • avatar

    “Big ethanol has never bought a politician”

    Better go back and recheck the campaign contributions of ADM.

  • avatar

    I have seen signs on the pumps that say 10% MTBE but I will have to look and see if there are any ethanol labels. I never thought to look before.

    • 0 avatar

      Curious as to where you live.

      IIRC, pretty much every state had banned MTBE by around 2006.

      Don’t remember if the nationwide ban was ever finalized, so I’m not sayin’ you’re wrong. I’m just amazed anybody would still have that crap in their gas as it is about as environmentally friendly as Ethyl…

      Not to mention it plays all sorts of havoc with cars.

    • 0 avatar

      “…banned MTBE by around 2006.”

      I remember the early 1990s hoopla when MTBE was marketed as “Generation 2000” or something similar. As you probably know MTBE replaced MMT in some markets, benzene in others, which had replaced TEL (lead) a few years farther back…

      I doubt ethanol blended gasoline will ever go by the wayside.

    • 0 avatar

      WA State. I’m trying to remember when I last saw a sticker, but can’t. Must not have been to recent. Sometimes old memories trick me into thinking they happened a short time ago… damn things.

  • avatar

    My state uses a 10% blend. I’ve heard that several Automakers are fighting the increase to 15% because it could ruin engines. I fear for the future of my reliable but 12 year old push rod V6.

  • avatar

    Depending on where you live, gasoline is no longer consistent with its labeling as far as ethanol content. A quick net search shows people taking their cars in only to be told their longer cold starts, running problems, etc are due to MORE ethanol than listed.

    Sad how gasoline now resembles an adulterated street drug. or the like might be helpful here.

  • avatar

    I’m thinking my next vehicle better be a diesel so I can avoid this nonsense!

  • avatar

    A good source for my earlier post….

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