New Strategy for Clean, High-Octane Ethanol Needed

The industry must push for change in the way fuels are blended and tested, writes Dave Vander Griend. Growth of the ethanol industry, producers of a clean high-octane fuel, is being blocked by U.S. EPA policies.
By Dave Vander Griend | August 11, 2014

There is more corn being produced in the United States today than at any other time in history.  Indeed, while this should be good news for the fuel ethanol industry, we haven’t been able to benefit to the fullest extent possible. That’s because our government has blocked the growth of the ethanol industry, while giving the “keys to the kingdom” to the petroleum industry.

As we know, the petroleum industry produces poor quality fuels and then blames the higher toxic emissions on ethanol. A lesser known fact is that the U.S. EPA also makes ethanol look bad by controlling what fuels are tested and how they are blended. It’s a brilliant move by both groups, but one we as an industry have to stand up against.

We must push for change when it comes to the way fuels are blended and tested. Right now, certification fuel as defined by the EPA has half of the fine particulate toxic emissions compared to the fuel we buy at the local convenience store. The EPA contracted with the Coordinating Research Council and a Chevron fuel blending engineer to make a lower quality fuel for the blending of higher levels for ethanol in certain tests. This was done so the outcome would demonstrate higher emissions with higher ethanol blends.

However, we know that by simply adding ethanol to gasoline, toxic emissions are reduced. This is a big deal because toxic emissions from gasoline are a growing health concern, especially for those living in urban areas. Low income families and children are often the most exposed to high traffic areas, just because of where they live. The primary cause of the toxic emissions is high-boiling aromatics, which are all some type of benzene unnecessarily added to gasoline. These aromatics produce literally hundreds of billions of invisible fine particulates that come out of your tailpipe for every mile driven. The particulates are so small that, when breathed into the lungs, they go directly into your bloodstream.

Ethanol can be used to replace a large percentage of aromatics, providing a cleaner-burning fuel and increased octane. This is an area where we as an industry need to put our focus. Cleaning up the way gasoline is blended by using more ethanol will open up the marketplace while benefiting our air quality and our health.

It’s one more pathway to consider, given the constant hurdles the EPA continues to put in front of our industry. Between ignoring the ethanol and auto industry’s recommendations for Tier 3, the proposed reduction in flex-fuel vehicle credits and the proposed cut to the 2014 renewable volume obligations for the renewable fuel standard, it is obvious the EPA is not interested in ethanol. 

It’s a pattern we as an industry need to change; otherwise our business will plateau in the United States. Our opponents have laid their groundwork and are executing their strategy. We need to start executing ours and promote a clean high-octane strategy for today and the future.

Author: Dave Vander Griend
CEO, ICM Inc.
DaveV@icminc.com
316-796-0900