Help on the Way for Ethanol Industry?
The ailing ethanol industry is pushing for a stimulus package all its own -- and for a change it wouldn't cost the taxpayer a dime.
Led by Growth Energy, a new trade association representing biofuels interests in
There are some concerns with the auto industry and small-engine manufacturers about possible ill-effects a higher blend could have on their products. But the ethanol industry believes that testing will ultimately show that blends of 15% and even 20% won't cause engine damage. Preliminary tests have not found harm.
Automakers have been reluctant to go along, but Ford recently expressed willingness to acquiesce to ethanol blends higher than 10%. It sent a letter to Jeff Broin, the head of Poet, the largest ethanol producer in the country, saying that "Ford endorses efforts to increase base level blends [of gasoline] up to E15 and collaborate with key stakeholders to overcome challenges with introducing these higher levels of ethanol."
"E15 is completely acceptable in our cars,â€? adds Michael Harrigan, an automotive consultant and a fuels systems engineer at Ford for 30 years.
EPA currently limits ethanol blending to 10%, except for E85, a fuel blend that is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline and can only be used in the 6 million or so cars and trucks built specifically to run on it. Lifting that cap is crucial for the struggling ethanol industry. It's not just being choked by a lack of capital, as are so many other industries, but its market is limited as long as it can only add 10% of its product to gasoline at the pump. Were EPA to approve the 15% blend it could add another 6 billion gallons or more of annual ethanol demand.
Former NATO commander and presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clarke, now representing Growth Energy, argued at a news conference that lifting the 10% cap on ethanol blends could result in the creation of more than 130,000 new American jobs and "inject $24 billion into the American economy annually." Clarke also said, lifting the cap on ethanol blending would unleash a wave of new investment in biofuels that would not use corn or other foods, but rely instead on agricultural and forestry waste.