OPINION: All I want for Christmas is truth

By Ron Lamberty, senior vice president, American Coalition for Ethanol | December 05, 2019

Late last month, stories began to circulate that wet and cold weather had caused damage to significant portions of the potato crop in Canada and the U.S., leading to a potentially horrifying result: This North American potato crop failure could lead to reduced availability and increased prices for… French fries! Families gathered around their tables for Thanksgiving wondered if they were enjoying their last mashed potatoes or cheesy hash browns for a while…

Fortunately, only a few days later, the New York Times ran a story entitled “The French Fries Are Doing Just Fine,” bringing calm to a nation reeling from the possibility it could have a future with fewer giant fistfuls of salty deep-fried strips of potato. It turns out the U.S. is only the fifth largest potato producing country, and Canada doesn’t even make the top 10. Nothing to worry about here… keep on Super Sizing, America!

At the same time, media outlets began dutifully rolling out the latest batch of deep-fried anti-ethanol hogwash, mostly old misinformation in shiny new packaging, blaming ethanol for things that have been disproven multiple times, printed or aired without any response from ethanol producers or advocates, who could tell drivers “ethanol is working just fine.” More accurately, people would know ethanol works just fine if any media outlet had as much interest in separating fact from oil industry manufactured ghost stories and outright lies, as they had in finding out if the world can still “have fries with that.”  

The truth is, if ethanol did any of the things “they” have said it will do, the ethanol industry would be crazy to promote using more of it. Reports of motorists stranded by ethanol would be trending everywhere people get news, drivers would quit buying it, and stations would take it out of their tanks immediately. The fact you’ve never heard such a thing is proof it isn’t true. Even one motorist stranded by E15 could be fed into the big oil misinformation machinery and end up on every screen in the nation. It hasn’t happened because the “concerns” the oil industry and their politicians have recycled and repackaged for more than 30 years still aren’t true.

Unfortunately, station owners have heard the mythology often enough they believe new lies when they fit the long-standing fiction. Most retailers believe they have to buy new tanks, lines, dispensers and other components if they want to sell E15. Ample evidence proves—not suggests or implies—proves—E15 could be stored in nearly all existing underground fuel tanks and pumped through existing piping to dispensers warrantied for 15 percent ethanol for more than 15 years.

Even knowledgeable people who support using higher ethanol blends are affected by the noise, when they acknowledge some new pieces and parts require upgrade before selling E15. Somehow, the explanation those pieces and parts would cost a few thousand dollars for most locations—not the few hundred thousand dollars claimed in misinformation campaigns—gets left out. Hardly any station would need that much equipment—and if they did, maybe they’re not ideal higher ethanol blend retailers. 

There are resources to help station owners find out if their equipment is E15 compatible, but the process can be overwhelming. Retailers have all heard the anti-E15 mantra, “It’s nearly impossible to know what equipment is installed at a station.” Again, not true (and kind of stupid to say, really. Go try and bury a fuel tank without telling anyone what’s in it. Let us know how that works out). Every state has a tank database, and installers have records of what they installed, because they had to provide them to state databases. Rather than searching the web, use your phone as a phone. Call your equipment company. They’ll help you find the truth. Thank them with a big order of fries.