Issue: May 2012

Points to Ponder before API/Auto call on E15

by Matt Hartwig

As Yogi Bera once said, "It's déjà vu all over again." In one of the poorer kept secrets, the oil industry and the auto industry will once again reveal the findings of their testing of higher level ethanol blends. Many might remember this research was previewed almost two years ago when an official from General Motors "leaked" some of the preliminary findings to the New York Times.

Since then, little has changed in the narrative. Oil and auto industry advocates have continued to throw up roadblocks to higher ethanol blends despite the benefits ethanol blending offers – namely cost savings at the pump, reduced reliance on imported oil, domestic job creation, and choice at the pump for which American consumers are clamoring.

In preparing for the oil industry and auto industry call this morning, please keep some of these facts in mind:

• The Department of Energy conducted six million miles of testing on E15 – the equivalent of 12 round trips to the Moon – and found no issues.
• Some of the vehicles in the oil/auto industry funded research project actually failed on E0 – gasoline without ethanol. (Interestingly, no E10 was tested.)
• Some of the vehicles tested were under recall by NHTSA.
• The fuel ethanol used in the testing was "aggressive ethanol" - ethanol laced with additives like acids and salts. This form of ethanol would not meet fuel standards and therefore would never find its way into American gas tanks.
• At today's prices, E15 would offer consumers a significant savings over the price of regular gasoline. At wholesale, ethanol is approximately $1.00 cheaper per gallon than gasoline and in 2011, ethanol kept gasoline prices an average of $1.09 cheaper per gallon.
• Ethanol provides refiners with extra octane, allowing them to produce a poorer quality fuel – called sub-octane – to be blended with ethanol to meet the 87 octane minimum required at the pump.
• Research from automotive consulting firm Ricardo, Inc., found that high octane fuels – fuels like ethanol with an octane rating of 113 – will be essential in helping automakers achieve new fuel economy standards.
• A recent poll from American Viewpoint found that 75% of Americans want greater choice when they pull up to the pump – and that includes ethanol.
• That same poll found 58% of Americans would use more domestic ethanol where available – which would explain the oil industry desire to scare consumers and preserve market share.

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