Harvesting Straw Men

By Mike Bryan | August 10, 2009
As I write this, our country is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's historic walk on the moon. Right up until the moment that Armstrong took that first memorable step, many said it couldn't be done that going to the moon would cost too much and wouldn't be meaningful. The naysayers were eventually proven wrong and what we know today is that all of that hard work the innovation and creativity of the scientists and the dedication of all those involved in the mission has made us a more prosperous and secure country.

Today we are faced with an even greater challenge producing enough energy to sustain the world. Right now we have a negative mandate that dictates 90 percent of the fuel we use must come from fossil sources. We need to change this harmful policy, and the first step is to increase the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline to 15 percent.

Predictably, this increase in sustainability and energy independence is unnerving to those who profit from the status quo. When the U.S. EPA's commentary period on the E15 waiver opened up, participants lined up to take their turn at the podium. Those against the increase consisted of a "who's who" of traditional anti-ethanol groups poultry and cattle producers, food manufacturers and Big Oil. Small engine and off-road engine industry groups complained that an increase in ethanol would be disastrous for their engines and they would have no choice in using E15. The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers came out with a strongly worded comment in which they pointed to a lack of testing, lessened drivability and increased evaporative emissions - the same tired arguments they trotted out against the mandate for E10.

All of these arguments are straw men. I will say this as bluntly as possible: E15 has no harmful impact on performance, maintenance or emissions. Increasing our reliance on domestic sources of fuel can only strengthen our economy at a time when creating jobs is exactly what we need. The ethanol industry currently supports more than half a million jobs and increasing ethanol's blend in gasoline to 15 percent would create an additional 130,000 jobs.

AIAM has a point when it says testing needs to be done to ensure that modern engines are capable of handling E15 blends. It errs, however, in assuming that this testing can take the place of substantive change that makes a difference in the lives of average consumerseager for more sustainable fuels. Small engine manufacturers complain that every retail station in the country will sell E15 if allowed. But if consumers request gasoline with less than 15 percent ethanol or, if, for some reason, ethanol-blended fuel costs the retailer more than straight gasoline, the retailer can choose not to sell it.

Perhaps the best alternative of all is the Open Fuel Standard which requires that 50 percent of new cars be flexible fuel vehicles by 2012. These vehicles would be warranted to operate on gasoline, ethanol or methanol. They would create real competition in the marketplace and would give consumers the choice they demand. Given the chance, ethanol will create more domestic jobs, a sustainable energy economy and a better environment. It's a win-win-win situation.

That's the way I see it.

Mike Bryan
Publisher & CEO
mbryan@bbiinternational.com