The First Crack in the Wall

By Tom Buis | November 15, 2010
Two months ago, the U.S. EPA made a historic announcement. For the first time in more than 30 years, the amount of ethanol that can be blended into our fuel supply will rise from 10 to 15 percent for cars 2007 and newer.

The EPA's decision came in response to Growth Energy's Green Jobs Waiver, a petition we filed in March 2009 to raise the "blend wall"—the artificial limit on the ethanol market—and create new market opportunity for the industry. After exhaustive analysis by the U.S. DOE on the effects of E15 on vehicle emissions, durability and performance, the first round of tests for new models confirmed what we've said and numerous independent studies have shown—that the science supports E15.

The EPA's initial decision to allow E15 in cars 2007 and newer is unquestionably a good step. It cracks that blend wall and allows us to immediately reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs here in the U.S. and improve our environment. By moving to E15, we can open the fuels market where ethanol can displace foreign oil and take back some of the $300 billion we send overseas each year to import oil. Every dollar spent here on ethanol will create jobs in this country—jobs that cannot be outsourced. Economic studies say that more than 136,000 new jobs will be created and as much as 7 billion gallons of gasoline from imported oil will be displaced when the country moves to E15 for all vehicles.

The payoff from greater ethanol use goes further than our economy—though the economic impact alone is worth the effort to expand ethanol usage. It extends to our environment and, longer term, our national security. Clean burning ethanol produced from corn can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 59 percent, compared to gas, and innovation in the ethanol industry will soon push that number even higher.

While there are those in the industry who view the EPA's decision from the "glass-is-half-empty" approach, we see this as real change. This is an evolutionary effort by Washington to realize the promise of ethanol to change America's energy future for the better. And although we would have preferred immediate approval of E15 in all vehicles, we know this is just the first domino to fall.

The decision on 2007 and newer model years applies to 43 million vehicles; that is nearly 20 percent of the current U.S. duty fleet. A decision on cars 2001 to 2006—scheduled for this month—would add an additional 86 million cars, meaning that E15 could be allowed in all the cars manufactured in the past decade (equal to more than 54 percent of all the vehicles on the road today). And this number will only increase as older vehicles are replaced—at the rate of 10 to 15 million new cars each year.

There are many more steps we can take toward achieving our energy security and environmental goals, but every journey starts with a single step. We commend the EPA for setting us on the path toward energy independence and we urge it to quickly approve E15 for all vehicles, so that every American motorist has the opportunity to use a blend of fuel that is proven to be better for our economy, our security and our environment.

Have a safe holiday and a Happy New Year.

Author: Tom Buis
CEO, Growth Energy