Capitalizing on ethanol’s strengths

This fall, ACE members discussed ways to ensure more market access for ethanol, with the fuel's clean octane advantages at the top of the list, writes Brian Jennings. This column appears in the January issue of EPM.
By Brian Jennings | December 22, 2015

Each fall the American Coalition for Ethanol brings members together to identify the goals we’ll pursue for the coming year. We did a series of listening sessions between harvest and football in September, October and November, having candid conversations about priorities, needs and ways to go on offense to ensure more market access for ethanol.

The accompaning word cloud illustrates the discussion.

It should be noted that our listening sessions occurred before the U.S. EPA issued the final renewable fuel standard (RFS) blending targets for 2014, 2015 and 2016 (this column was written in advance of EPA’s rule as well).  Obviously, the RFS took up a lot of oxygen, but it was hardly the only topic of conversation.

In fact, ACE members discussed several opportunities and challenges, such as commodity prices, the 2016 election, climate change, exports, Low Carbon Fuel Standards, and Reid vapor pressure for higher blends of ethanol, just to name a few.

As you can see, the issue of infrastructure for E15 and flex fuels dominated much of our conversation.  Part of that was timing, with USDA rolling out its Biofuel Infrastructure Program.  Progress is being made as ACE has been helping retailers do the math and marketers increasingly ask us how they can sell more E15 and E85.

Perhaps it is evident from the word cloud that the topic which generated the most enthusiasm was how to market ethanol’s clean octane advantages.  One ACE member remarked at a meeting, “E15 is a price point.  E25/E30 is a technology.”

The industry can’t pour all of its trust and work into hoping EPA finally gets the RFS right.  We must continue to defend the RFS, but also need to build momentum for new policies and different ways to move gallons of ethanol.

That’s why ACE is putting our shoulder into the technical and political steps necessary to position blends such as E25 and E30 as clean octane fuels that can help automakers comply with greenhouse gas and CAFE standards and replace benzene and other aromatics in gasoline.

That’s also why some ACE members are working with the California Air Resources Board, instead of fighting it, to capitalize on technology innovations in corn and ethanol production to meet the demands for low-carbon fuels in California under the LCFS.

We don’t know if EPA is going to hold up its end of the deal with the RFS, but we do know ethanol’s octane and low-carbon benefits are durable and we should build support for policy mechanisms to capitalize on these strengths.

Author: Brian Jennings
Executive Vice President
American Coalition for Ethanol