Higher Ethanol Blends: A No-Brainer

By Mike Bryan | April 14, 2009
Raising the level of ethanol blends continues to be a topic of debate in Washington. Those who oppose such a move cite tales of destruction and catastrophe should such a change be allowed to happen. I am reminded of similar tales in Colorado, Minnesota and California when 10 percent ethanol blends were slated to be introduced.

You remember the stories, cars would be stalled along our freeways, causing accidents, performance would be denigrated, deterioration of the automobile fuel delivery components, mileage would be greatly reduced, and on and on. In fact, in every case where ethanol blends have been introduced, it has been a complete "nonevent." Hot lines were set up to field the stream of calls from angry motorists that were sure to follow. The phones sat silent.

Despite all of the dire predictions, and all of the warnings of emissions and mileage denigration and catastrophic small engine failures, going to 15 percent ethanol blends will be a nonevent as well. Frankly it should have happened years ago. More research has been done on raising the level of ethanol blends to 15 percent, than was conducted when 10 percent ethanol was added to gasoline.

In a recent study performed by the Energy and Environmental Research Center of North Dakota, it was demonstrated that mileage actually improved on various ethanol blend levels as high as 30 percent to 40 percent, in nonflexible-fueled vehicles. Nitrogen oxide emissions were actually reduced in many cases and there was no deterioration of performance.

In some cases nonflexible-fuel vehicles with ethanol blends as high as 65 percent performed exceptionally well.

With the Obama Administration's 36 billion gallon goal, raising the current blend level to 15 percent is, in my view, a no-brainer. The march towards second-generation biofuels and predictions of ever-increasing yields from America's farmland bodes well for the future of ethanol. As we all know, in Washington you have to do what you have to do to get legislation passed. Frankly, the cap of 15 billion gallons for corn ethanol was done out of panic as a result of a completely fabricated food-versus-fuel issue.

Corn and other crops can provide fuel for this country for many years to come at a level far above 15 billion gallons. Bumper crops of wheat, corn, sorghum, sugarcane and other crops easily converted to ethanol will help provide the kind of energy security needed to keep us out of harm's way.

It's time that such an antiquated rule of 10 percent ethanol be recognized for what it was, a political compromise made in Washington that had little or no connection to reality.

Write your congressmen and senators today and urge them to support a 15 percent ethanol blend level as a stepping stone to the future.

That's the way I see it.

Mike Bryan
Publisher & CEO
mbryan@bbiinternational.com