At odds over ethanol decision
Corn is in an increasing amount of food we eat, and if you drive a car built after 2007, more of it could be in your gas tank.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday, Oct. 13, that it raised the maximum amount of corn-based ethanol that could be blended with gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent. The decision sparked a flurry of back and forth between trade, environmental and consumer groups.
But as Harvest Public Media’s Jessica Naudziunas points out in a blog post, gasoline retailers do not have to sell this E-15 blend.
There’s no mandate, just EPA approval
Coverage of the issue has been robust, and we’ve rounded up links to some of the news reports.
Producers and farm groups
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that food producers say the increased use of corn for fuel puts pressure on livestock feed supplies and raises food prices.
"We don't want a repeat of a couple of years ago when, due mostly to high feed-grain prices, pork producers lost an average of almost $24 a hog and the industry lost nearly $6 billion," Steve Meyers, an Iowa economist, said in a National Pork Producers Council press release.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president Steve Foglesong said in an article on the agriculture and rural policy site Agri Pulse that the decision will have a deep impact on the beef industry. Foglesong said funneling more corn toward fuel production could ultimately hurt consumers in the grocery store checkout aisle. In contrast, the American Farm Bureau welcomed the EPA’s decision and the group’s president, Bob Stallman, said it was a step toward clean, domestic energy production.
Consumers and the environment
The Kansas City Star listed arguments against the decision from the auto industry, environmental and consumer groups. Gina McCarthy, assistant administratorfor air and radiation at theEPA, responded to concerns that E-15 would harm cars built after 2007 or make vehicles less efficient.
“We are very confident of the use of E-15 for these newer vehicles,” McCarthy said in The Star article.
Blogger Fred Meier clarified in the USA Today blog Drive On that raising the maximum amount of ethanol that can be blended with gasoline to 15 percent will not impact E-85, a special ethanol based fuel that is approved for use in “flex fuel” vehicles. Meier also pointed out that the EPA is under a federal mandate to increase the use of ethanol in consumer grade gasoline: “Congress required fuel refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels, mostly ethanol, into auto fuel by 2022 and the EPA says it can't be done without allowing at least an E-15 blend.”
The USA Today also posted a nice Q & A on what the EPA’s decision means for consumers. Here’s a sample:
“Q: Should I put it in my car or truck?
A: The EPA says generally only for vehicles of the 2007 model year or newer. It says testing shows it won't harm them."
In addition, many cars and trucks have been designed as "flex-fuel" vehicles that can use E85, an 85% ethanol blend. They should have no problem with E15.”
The stock market site 24/7 Wall Street noted on Friday, Oct. 15, that ethanol producers did not get a bump following the EPA decision. Reporter Paul Ausick cited a twofold reason for the lukewarm market reaction. First, the decision only affects about 20 percent of the cars on the market. Second, the question still lingers as to who is libel should E-15 chew up a vehicle’s engine.
Despite the concerns, stock market advice site Seeking Alpha advised investors to reserve a place for ethanol in their portfolios. Aside from government support, one of the more interesting rationales listed in the article is an emerging market for ethanol in Brazil:
“Brazil has thousands of gas stations using the same tanks, pumps, tankers for transportation, some with minor modifications and Brazil is building new pipelines to transport ethanol.”
And on the heels of the EPA decision, Sunoco E-15 was announced as the official fuel of NASCAR in 2011, according to Autoblog Green. In the article Eric Loveday wrote that NASCAR engineers have had months to play around with the new fuel and haven’t encountered any problems.