If ethanol producers have their way, the ethanol content of gasoline will be increased from 10% (E10) to 15% (E15) in the near future. Groups such as Growth Energy and 54 ethanol producers have issued a waiver request to the Environmental Protection Agency to make the change.
According to their website, Growth Energy is a “proactive group committed to the promise of agriculture and growing America’s economy through cleaner, greener energy.” They claim that, among other advantages, increasing the blend of ethanol by five percent will help create American jobs, increase energy independence and enhance car performance.
Growth Energy and other supporters of ethanol say that ethanol reduces the price of gas as well as greenhouse gas emissions. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, ethanol reduces the price of gas by 20 to 35 cents per gallon, which saves the average American family $150 to $300 each year. Further, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln estimates that ethanol produced from corn can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 59 percent.
Despite the advantages of ethanol, suggested from research, ethanol producers have faced opposition from groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association who claim that ethanol production is responsible for driving up the price of food. Independent studies have been performed to find out if that is actually the case.
One study by the Congressional Budget Office, from April 2007 to April 2008, found ethanol’s use of corn only contributed to five-tenths to eight-tenths of one percentage point to the increase in food prices. Another study at the University of Missouri determined that the approval of a five percent increase in the ethanol blend would cause corn prices to increase by 4 cents per bushel and would result in a zero percent change in the consumer food expenditures.
Unfortunately, not everyone is behind the proposal. The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are two organizations that have spoken out against the waiver, saying that the change would be premature.
The opposition fears that most vehicles currently driven by Americans are not designed to handle ethanol blends greater than E10, and if E15 is used, problems could arise with the vehicles. Thus, damage of product reputation and credibility causing a reduction in the demand for ethanol. For this reason, AIAM and many others are urging the EPA to delay their approval of the E15 waiver.
With important points to consider from both sides, the EPA has a difficult decision to make. Either way, ethanol is making its way to the forefront of alternative fuel technology, and it is causing people to recognize it as a viable fuel option for the future.