Posts tagged “E85”
What Ethanol Problem?
If you live in the Midwest, you are in the midst of a thriving ethanol industry. But the Midwest does not control its own destiny when it comes to ethanol. That is still controlled by the federal government.
When I first started writing about energy nearly a decade ago, many of my early articles were addressed at the ethanol policies we were pursuing in the US. Even though I supported renewable energy, I felt like we were going about things in the wrong way. While I acknowledged that you could subsidize lots of ethanol production into existence, there needed to be a clear path for sustainability in the event that strong government intervention waned.
Today, nine years after I began writing about energy, we have an ethanol industry that has undergone rapid growth, but it is an industry that still relies heavily on the hand of government in the form of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). One need look no further than the uproar over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to lower the RFS for 2014. CONTINUE»
We’ve Arrived at the “Blend Wall”
The Energy and Commerce Committee of the US House of Representatives has been holding hearings this week on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). It’s otherwise known as the ethanol mandate, although it covers biodiesel, as well. These hearings are timely, since at least two bills have been introduced to reform or repeal the RFS. During Tuesday’s session Rep. Waxman (D-CA) referred to the “gasoline blend wall, which may be around the corner.” In fact, a review of current gasoline sales and this year’s ethanol target confirms that the ethanol “blend wall” has arrived, at least for some of the nation’s refiners. That explains the urgency of the debate about the future of the RFS.
The blend wall is simply the threshold at which the RFS requires more ethanol to be blended into US gasoline than the quantity necessary to dose essentially all of it with the maximum 10% ethanol content for which most cars on the road were designed. Because the Environmental Protection Agency, which administers the RFS, has been unwilling to exercise its flexibility under existing law, the fuels industry must now choose from a set of unattractive options: It can limit mainstream gasoline to 10% ethanol content and absorb substantial RIN costs (see below) or penalties for failing to blend the required volumes of biofuel. It can produce less gasoline than the country needs, or export more of its production, to reduce its renewable fuel obligations. Or it can produce higher-ethanol blends such as E15 and risk the integrity of millions of cars and large portions of the country’s fuels infrastructure, including all but the newest gas station pumps and tanks. All of these choices affect the price consumers pay at the pump.
Our brand new weekly newsletter — Energy Trends Insider — debuted this week. We had stories on the implications of the U.S. corn crop, the state of Cleantech investing, Patriot Coal’s bankruptcy, and the potential of pyrolysis oil.
Interested readers can find more information on the newsletter and subscribe at Energy Trends Insider. To give a flavor for the kind of content, I want to share the story on the situation with the U.S. corn crop and how that can potentially impact upon the domestic ethanol sector. This has been a story that we have been on top of for two weeks; had ETI debuted a week earlier this would have been our lead story which was well before the story received much mainstream attention. In fact, I have not seen any detailed analysis yet on the potential implications of this story — but ethanol futures have moved sharply higher in the past two weeks.
Potential Impacts of Poor Corn Crop on Ethanol Market
By: Robert Rapier
I have long felt that one of the biggest threats to the U.S. ethanol industry is a major drought/crop failure in the heart of corn country. This year we may be experiencing such an event. Recent reports indicate that what had been expected to be a record crop of corn has been downgraded such that only 40% of the corn crop is being classified as in good or excellent condition. This is down 48% versus last week and 69% versus a year ago.
Corn prices are naturally surging in response; current corn prices are 21% higher than they were a year ago. Because so much of the corn crop is devoted to meeting ethanol mandates, there is a potential supply conflict being set up between food producers and ethanol producers.
Were U.S. Taxpayers Subsidizing Ethanol Exports?
Over the past couple of years, U.S. ethanol exports have soared. Last year a news article in Financial Times charged that these exports were being subsidized with U.S. tax dollars. The U.S. ethanol industry strongly denied this, but I wrote several articles on the controversy:
To be clear, it wasn’t the exporting of ethanol that concerned me, it was the idea that taxpayers were potentially subsidizing the practice. Although many ethanol proponents denied it, I said at the time that we would know soon enough, because if ethanol exports fell once the tax credits expired at the end of 2011, that would be strong evidence that exports had indeed been benefiting from those tax credits.
Alas, today I had intended to put up my book review of Amanda Little’s book Power Trip, but I left the book on my desk in the office and I need to review some notes first. So that should be posted for my Thursday column. If you haven’t noticed, I have fallen into a pattern of putting up a new column each Monday and Thursday. Because there is always a lot going on in energy, I generally have three or four decent choices for these new columns. This week, I was sent a guest column on nuclear power called Fukushima a stake through nuclear industry’s heart. I had initially decided to run it, but had a change of heart. The… Continue»
Bob Dinneen wants Congress to extend ethanol tax credits with “a stroke of the pen, a little bit of Whiteout, just change the date.”
The Edison2 “Very Light Car” took home the grand prize of $5M while two other teams were awarded $2.5M each.
The Saudi Arabia of Ethanol Iowa is to corn ethanol what Saudi Arabia is to oil. At present Iowa has the capacity to produce 3.5 billion gallons of ethanol per year, which is 26% of the nation’s total (Source). This is of course due to the large amount of corn production in Iowa, enabled by ample rainfall and rich topsoil. But Iowa differs from Saudi Arabia with respect to energy production in one very important detail: Saudi Arabia satisfies their own energy needs with the oil they produce, and exports the excess. Iowa on the other hand exports the vast majority of the ethanol they produce while importing gasoline as motor fuel. Gasoline consumption in Iowa is presently around 1.6… Continue»
A couple of months back, I posted Gary Dikkers’ analysis comparing the fuel efficiency of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Gary’s conclusion was: Both states have almost identical topography, climate, demographics, and about the same mix of urban/rural driving. (In fact, Wisconsin has a slightly higher ratio of urban to rural miles driven.) The two states are about as close to being twins as any two states could be. (Not counting the Vikings/Packers difference of course.) Yet fuel economy in Minnesota is worse, and their drivers buy and burn more fuel than their neighbors. The only obvious difference that jumps out is that Minnesota has mandated its drivers burn a blend of ethanol and gasoline — a fuel with a known lower… Continue»
The whiff of ethanol dollars floating around Capitol Hill hasn’t escaped the notice of sugar producers in the U.S. The New York Times reports: Seeing Sugar’s Future in Fuel LOREAUVILLE, La. — Todd Landry, a farmer who conjures big stands of sugar cane from the muddy fields of southern Louisiana, has been struggling lately against droughts and freezes and hurricanes. Come January he will confront another peril: expanded sugar imports from Mexico. Mr. Landry and other sugar producers think they have spotted a life raft, and its name is ethanol. Taking a cue from Midwestern farmers who have improved their lot by selling corn to ethanol distilleries, sugar cane and sugar beet farmers want an ethanol deal of their own,… Continue»