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Marc Rauch picks apart Guardian’s anti-ethanol post

Still waiting for Debbie Carlson to explain why ethanol “isn’t a good fuel.”

That was the headline of a piece she wrote for The Guardian last week: “Energy hypocrisy: Ethanol isn’t a good fuel, but it’s not going away anytime soon.”

Carlson, a veteran business freelancer who also has written for Barron’s and The Wall Street Journal, makes several uncontested points, noting that ethanol — particularly ethanol made from corn — carries some political baggage. And of course there’s a looming battle over how much ethanol to blend into the nation’s gasoline supply under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

But nowhere in the 1,024-word post does Carlson explain, specifically, what makes ethanol such a lousy fuel.

Ethanol, whether it’s made from corn, sugarcane, biomass or other feedstocks like natural gas or municipal waste, simply burns cleaner, producing far fewer emissions than gasoline. The result is a net gain for air quality, people’s health and the environment. Henry Ford called it the fuel of the future.

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Marc Rauch. Credit: The Auto Channel

Marc Rauch, executive vice president and co-editor of The Auto Channel website, takes issue with Carlson’s assertions in a new TAC post, titled “Ethanol Honesty is the Best Energy Policy.” Marc Rauch, a longtime champion of alcohol fuels who appears in the Fuel Freedom-produced documentary PUMP, starts in right away with the title of Carlson’s piece, noting that she “included nothing within her story to support calling ethanol a bad fuel.”

Rauch is just getting warmed up. He continues:

Ms. Carlson doesn’t get any more honest as she thoughtlessly rattles off hackneyed, long disproved criticisms of ethanol like a detached high school cheerleader who doesn’t understand the rudiments of the game she’s cheering for.

Ms. Carlson writes that while ethanol was supposed to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil; combat climate change; be a gateway for more renewable fuels technology, and reduce gasoline prices because it was cheaper; that it hasn’t done any of these things. She is wrong, it has done all of these things.

If America used 13 billion gallons of ethanol in 2014 to help power our passenger vehicles then that means we reduced our dependence on foreign controlled oil by 13 billion gallons — simple mathematics.

Rauch saves his harshest criticism for Carlson’s rehashing of the argument that corn ethanol steals food out of the mouths of starving babies. It’s a line that opponents of ethanol, including the oil industry, have been leaning on for years. She writes that “we’re putting nearly 40% of the US corn crop in our gas tanks, which some argue pushes up food prices.” (emphasis added.)

Rauch writes that Carlson “attempts to re-ignite the preposterous flames of the ‘food vs. fuel’ argument, adding:

Central in trying to make this an alarming statistic is the imagery that just as the corn is about to be distributed to millions of corn-on-the-cob deprived starving people around the world, greedy ethanol producers swoop in and buy up all the food to be turned into fuel. In reality, this is not how the system works.

There is no question that more corn being grown in America today is being used for ethanol production than as compared to, say, 10 years ago. But the reason for this is that the corn is specifically grown to be used for ethanol. There is demand for the crop so farmers grow more. This means that farmers (American farmers) can grow something that is profitable. Moreover, it means that they can grow something without having to turn to public assistance.

In 2000, U.S. corn production was 251,854 metric tons. In 2013, U.S. corn production was about 353,715 metric tons. Despite the increase in the amount of corn grown between the two years the actual amount of corn available for human consumption remained the same. Additionally, although most of the world outside of the western hemisphere does not eat corn the way that we do, world corn production reached record highs in 2014. So it’s safe to say that there were fewer starving Africans being deprived of non-nutritious high-fructose corn syrup products. Considering the obesity problem that we have in America, even if we were depriving someone of corn chips perhaps we would be doing them a favor.

Finally, there’s the issue of ethanol’s price. Carlson writes that: “As of 26 January, Chicago Board of Trade ethanol futures were holding around $1.448 a gallon, whereas New York Mercantile Exchange reformulated gasoline futures prices were at $1.3167, giving the renewable fuel a 13-cent premium.”

Ask yourself: Where have you seen regular gasoline at $1.31 a gallon? That low price doesn’t take into account marketing and distribution costs for gasoline, Rauch says.

As for the price in the real world, FFF blogger William Tucker has observed that ethanol prices have dropped, which is remarkable considering that oil has plunged 60 percent in seven months. According to E85Prices.com, the national average for E85 on Monday was $1.70, compared with $2 for E10 (regular gasoline with 10 percent ethanol).

In some states, it’s more cost-effective than the national average: In Texas on Monday, E85 was 18.2 percent cheaper than E10. In Florida, the spread in favor of ethanol was 24 percent, and in California it was 19 percent. The spread likely will increase if volatile oil prices rise again, which some experts say they inevitably will.

Rauch writes that Carlson is:

assuming the current surprisingly low price of crude oil will remain surprisingly low …

Read Rauch’s full post, and watch his segment in PUMP, to learn the truth about ethanol.

Until then, here’s a clip from the film, in which Rauch says ethanol “has always been the better fuel” for cars and trucks, and David Blume discusses the many crops besides corn that can be processed into alcohol fuels:

Related:

 

 

Does ethanol have to be hurt by falling gas prices?

Jim Lane, editor and publisher of Biofuels Digest, is one person who thinks alternative fuels aren’t necessarily going to be hurt by the huge drop in the price of crude oil.

In a post on the Digest Jan. 6, Lane lays out the rather complicated case of why it doesn’t pay right now to be dumping your alternate-energy stocks. That’s been the reaction so far to anything related to the price of oil. But Lane says there are special aspects of alternatives like ethanol that will be affected in a different way.

In the first place, Lane notes that while crude oil prices have been falling, ethanol prices have been falling, too. Since last June, crude oil has fallen from $115 a barrel to under $50, a remarkable 60 percent drop. Yet ethanol has fallen as well, from $2.13 a gallon to $1.55 a gallon, a formidable 27 percent drop. This is due mainly to the falling price of corn, which has been at its lowest level in recent years. A bushel of corn fell over the same period from $4.19 a bushel to $3.78, a 10 percent drop. In this way, ethanol is only marginally dependent on the price of oil and can show its own price pattern.

One thing worth noting is that there is a certain amount of elasticity in American driving. People tend to increase their driving range when the price of gasoline goes down. This is particularly true when it comes to taking vacations, which tend to be a long-term planning effort. If the price of gasoline stays down through next summer, people are more likely to increase gas consumption. The fact is that gasoline demand has actually reached its highest point in the last few months since the price of oil began to fall, as the following graph indicates:

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Now drivers are required to include 10 percent ethanol in each gallon of gas. Therefore, ethanol has a fixed market. Driving has been declining in recent years, which is one reason that the Renewable Fuel Standard has been under fire – because the absolute amount of ethanol required has exceeded the 10 percent requirement in relation to the amount of gasoline consumed. Refiners and oil companies must buy this amount of ethanol. This is the reason the Environmental Protection Agency has been holding back on setting an RFS for 2014 — because the original amount prescribed was going to exceed the 10 percent figure. If people start taking advantage of lower gas prices and start consuming more gasoline, the amount of ethanol required will grow. “(W)e should be seeing a 2+% increase in gasoline demand, and that will take some pressure off the ethanol blend wall,” Lane writes. It might make EPA’s decision easier, if it ever gets around to setting a number.

Just to emphasize this point, an RIN — Renewable Index Number — is required by the EPA to prove that a refinery has been adding ethanol up to the 10 percent mark. The price of RINs has actually been rising as gas prices have fallen. As Lane writes: “Part of the reason that the ethanol market is holding up relatively well in tough times is the impact of the Renewable Fuel Standard, and its traded RIN system. RIN prices have jumped as oil prices have slumped — and a $0.76 increase in the RIN value of a gallon of fuel is a striking increase in value.”

So all is not dark for the future of alternatives. Ethanol’s place is secure, despite the fall in gasoline prices. Remember, it’s not that demand for gas is falling, but people are spending less for what they get. If methanol is given a chance, it might turn out to be more invulnerable, since it’s not tied to corn prices but to natural gas, which we seem to have in even greater abundance than oil. Electric cars also don’t lose their appeal, since much of their appeal is getting off gas entirely and unbuckling from the oil companies. It may not be time to abandon your stock in alternative energies quite yet.

Throwback Thursday: Henry Ford, alcohol-fuel visionary

We might think of oil and automobiles as inextricably linked. But the earliest mass-produced vehicles were designed to run on multiple fuels, not just gasoline.

Henry Ford brought us the original mass-market flex-fuel vehicle. That fact made him one of the biggest stars of the Fuel Freedom-produced documentary PUMP the Movie, which is available on Netflix and DVD.

Ford’s Model T, introduced in 1908, could run just as well on alcohol fuels as on traditional gasoline. The driver could easily switch from one fuel to the other simply by turning a brass knob to the right of the steering column. This turned a screw in the carburetor, allowing either more or less fuel to enter the engine and mix with air. Alcohol fuel doesn’t contain as much energy as gasoline, so more of it needs to be injected to run the engine as well.

As David Blume, another PUMP star, shows in this video, drivers needed to switch between fuels because they wouldn’t know which fuel source would be available when they were out on a drive.

Henry Ford22Ford grew up on a farm in Michigan and always held farms, and farmers, dear to his heart. As historian Bill Kovarik’s fascinating study of Ford’s alcohol-fuel dedication shows, he clearly wanted to help cash-strapped farmers get into new markets by promoting agricultural products as fuel sources — not only corn, but anything else that could be fermented.

In 1919, Ford told The Christian Science Monitor (according to this New York Times account): “The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that sumach [a flowering plant] out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust — almost anything.”

The movement to run vehicles on ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, was dealt a severe blow by the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, known as Prohibition, which banned the “manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors,” even alcohol (ethanol is also known as grain alcohol, or “moonshine”) used as a fuel. Prohibition was repealed in 1933, and by then the ethanol market was severely weakened in America. Read Bill Ganzel’s truth-stranger-than-fiction account of what happened next, when the U.S. became convinced that leaded gasoline was the best way to raise gasoline octane levels.

But ethanol has staged an epic comeback: More than 13 billion gallons was used in 2013, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. That figure could reach 36 billion gallons by 2022 if the federal government continues to mandate blending an increasing amount of ethanol into the nation’s gas supply, under the Renewable Fuel Standard guidelines.

Make your voice heard: Sign Fuel Freedom’s petition urging major independent fueling retailers like Costco and Walmart to offer ethanol as an option for their customers.

Because unlike back in the day, you don’t even need a knob to make the switch to ethanol.

BusinessWeek: Ethanol just avoided a death blow

BusinessWeek’s Matthew Phillips reflects on the EPA’s decision to delay proposed changes to the renewable fuel standard, a revision that was expected to reduce the amount of corn-based ethanol to be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply.

Now that the new RFS standards have been put off until sometime in 2015, ethanol producers have the chance to regroup and fight another day, Phillips writes.

The ethanol industry just avoided a death blow. Rather than deciding to permanently lower the amount of renewable fuels that have to be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply, as it first proposed a year ago, the Environmental Protection Agency last week opted to wait until next year to decide. The delay (official notice here) means this year’s ethanol quotas won’t be set until 2015 and ensures they will be lower than the original mandate envisioned. That’s not great news for ethanol producers, but it gives them more time to fight and avoids an outcome that could have been far worse.

Ethanol industry leaders pretended to be angry at the EPA’s decision to delay on Friday: “Deciding not to decide is not a decision,” Bob Dinneen, chief executive of the Renewable Fuels Association, said in a written statement. But the reality is that they’re relieved the White House didn’t choose a more aggressive plan pushed by refining and oil companies.

EPA delays decision on whether to reduce ethanol in gas

The federal government’s new threshold for the amount of ethanol blended into America’s gasoline supply was already 10 months overdue. So officials have gone ahead and delayed the decision further, into 2015.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it would defer an announcement on the renewable fuel standard (RFS), which stipulates that ethanol should make up 10 percent of gasoline.

(The Des Moines Register has some of the day’s best reporting on this issue. Agriculture.com also has a good explanation of the granular details.)

The standard, first established under a 2005 law, calls for the amount of renewable fuels in gasoline to progressively increase each year. But the law was written at a time when demand for gasoline was expected to keep going up. Slackened demand around the world, combined with stepped-up U.S. production, has dropped domestic prices below $3 a gallon.

Based on that reality, the EPA recommended, in November 2013, that the amount of corn ethanol in the should be reduced, from 14.4 billion gallons a year to 13.01 billion gallons.

This upset the corn growers and ethanol producers, most of them clustered in the Midwest and Great Plains. They said the delays deterred investment in biofuels, and even the oil companies complained that the regulatory vacuum created too much uncertainty in the fuels market.

The EPA’s recommendations had not been finalized. They had been sent to the White House Office of Budget and Management for review, but that office “ran out the 90-day clock to review the agency’s proposed standards, which for the first time signaled a retreat by the EPA on the percentage of biofuels that must be blended,” The Hill reported.

Since the EPA was already so late in setting the 2014 guidelines, the agency “intends to get back on track next year, though details on how it would do that weren’t available Friday,” The Wall Street Journal wrote. The EPA statement said: “Looking forward, one of EPA’s objectives is to get back on the annual statutory timeline by addressing 2014, 2015, and 2016 standards in the next calendar year.”

The reaction among the affected parties was mixed Friday. The WSJ tries to untangle the various interests:

The debate over the biofuels mandate triggers strange bedfellows, with trade groups representing the oil and refining companies, car manufacturers, livestock and even some environmental interests all opposed to the policy for different reasons. Proponents of the standard include the corn industry, which is the most common way ethanol is produced, and producers of ethanol.

The EPA’s announcement gave cautious hope to ethanol-industry leaders that the agency will fundamentally rethink how it proposes the annual biofuels levels. The draft 2014 biofuels levels, which the agency proposed almost a year ago, were much lower than the ethanol industry lobbied for.

“I am truly pleased that they’re pulling away from a rule that was so bad,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group representing biofuels companies. “But I recognize as well we have to work with the agency to try to figure out a path forward that everybody can live with.”

Executives in the oil-refining industry criticized the delay, and said it was evidence the renewable-fuel standard was itself inherently flawed and should be repealed.

“Each year is dependent upon the previous year, and to some extent dependent upon the following year,” said Charlie Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, a trade association representing the nation’s refining industry. “The problem is, every year EPA is late in getting this out, it exacerbates it. They’re never going to be able to catch up.”

 

Hey Nebraskans, 1 in 10 of you drives a flex-fuel vehicle

Nebraska is the nation’s third-leading corn producer (behind Iowa and Illinois), and it’s also fertile ground for the ethanol industry.

As the state Department of Agriculture notes, Nebraska has 25 operating ethanol plants that produce more than 1.2 billion gallons of ethanol a year. These operations employ about 3,000 people.

So it’s no surprise that Nebraskans are ahead of much of the nation when it comes to adopting ethanol as a transportation fuel. There are 67 stations in the state where E85 (a blend of up to 85 percent ethanol and the rest traditional gasoline) is available, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center.

About 10 percent of Nebraskans drive a vehicle that is branded flex-fuel, with the tell-tale badge on the rear or a yellow gas cap, meaning it can run any ethanol concentration (including E85) or gasoline or any blend of the two. The benefits of running E85 in a flex-fuel vehicle are numerous: It’s often cheaper than regular gas, even when you account for the roughly 30 percent reduction in fuel economy compared with gas; ethanol produces less toxic pollutants that harm health, and fewer greenhouse-gas emissions that harm the environment. The vehicle’s engine also has more power and better performance on ethanol.

In a story in the Grand Island Independent by Robert Pore this week, Gov. Dave Heineman encouraged Nebraskans who own flex-fuel vehicles to support the state’s ethanol industry, and take advantage of a renewable resource grown locally, by filling up with E85. “E85 continues to gain popularity across our state and country – allowing us to continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Heineman said.

Nebraskans will have the opportunity to learn more about ethanol and other replacement fuels during a free screening of the Fuel Freedom Foundation-produced documentary “PUMP” on Nov. 12 on the University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln. The film will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center, 313 N. 13th Street. As this calendar notice on the Lincoln Journal Star website notes, the screening will be hosted by the Nebraska Ethanol Board, the Urban Air Initiative and the Association of Nebraska Ethanol Producers. After the film, Doug Durante, executive director of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, will lead a brief panel discussion and take questions from the audience.

“PUMP” is playing in theaters in several other cities, including Anchorage and Tucson. Visit PUMPTheMovie.com for more information.

Breaking Energy: Kansas ethanol plant a big win in RFS equation

While the debate rages about what the threshold for biofuels should be in the government’s next (and long-delayed) Renewable Fuel Standard, Breaking Energy’s Jared Anderson has a timely post about the makeup of the current RFS, as it was proposed by the EPA last November.

There are thresholds within the larger thresholds, and it looks like the cellulosic ethanol target will go down. But as Anderson notes:

“While the battle over the RFS continues, the cellulosic ethanol industry took a major step forward today with the inauguration of a commercial-scale plant in Hugoton, Kansas. The biorefinery has the capacity to produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year, which alone exceeds EPA’s proposed 17 mm gallon blending target under RFS. The plant also generates 25 MW of electricity, which supplies its own needs and provides excess power to the local community.”

Anderson signs off with:

“The RFS will remain controversial, but this new plant is a big win for the cellulosic ethanol portion of the equation.”

(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Future for non-food ethanol in the U.S. is murky

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a story about how three large plants that produce cellulosic ethanol — fuel made from inedible parts of corn like the cob — could be the last for a while.

“Wavering U.S. policy on renewable fuels and the North American oil boom cast a shadow over the commercial triumph,” the story says. “The next big cellulosic ethanol plants are planned or being built in Brazil, not the United States. Although the U.S. government has spent more than $1 billion to develop cellulosic technology, industry executives recently wrote to President Barack Obama that other countries, including China, could “reap the economic and environmental rewards of technologies pioneered in America.”

Natural Gas, Corn Stover And The Restricted Ethanol Market

The nation is lucky to have Gina McCarthy as the head of the EPA. Her background is exquisite, her intellect is superior and her sensitivity to and understanding of the environmental issues facing America is second to none. She has been a fine EPA Administrator.

Then why am I worried when we have such a surfeit of riches in one individual leader? Long before McCarthy became Administrator, the EPA began working on a new set of guidelines governing the amount and use of ethanol in gasoline sold at the pump. The guidelines, more than likely, were ready in draft form simultaneously with Gina McCarthy’s appointment and the pressure to release them was intense, given earlier promises.

Because the positives and negatives of an increase or decrease in the RFS concerning ethanol use are imprecise, no real precise judgment can be made as to the final numbers, except the admonition, similar to the Hippocratic Oath: they do no harm and, do what the EPA suggests they probably will do, improve the economy, the environment and open fuel choices to the consumer. Sounds simple, but it isn’t! The EPA is considering modification of relatively recently determined RFS.

I understand the position of the oil companies to reduce what are effectively ethanol set asides. They have a financial stake in selling less corn-based ethanol with each gallon of gas, particularly when the content of ethanol rises to E85. Declining gas sales and prices make them eager to secure lower total annual ethanol requirements. Although the data is mixed, I also commiserate with the cattle growers who indicate they have had to pay, at times, higher prices for corn because of ethanol’s reliance on corn. Similarly, I am sensitive to environmentalists who worry that the acreage for corn-based ethanol is eating (excuse the pun) into conservation land and that total greenhouse gas emissions from production to use in vehicles of corn-based ethanol is not, generally, a good deal for the environment. I am not trying to be all things to all groups, but I am trying to weave my way through an intellectual and practical thicket.

The corn farmer’s advocacy of ethanol appears rational from an opportunity-cost standpoint. Corn-based ethanol seems, to them, to support higher prices for corn. They have done well in most recent years. While the facts remain unclear (credible researchers, such as those in the World Bank, have wavered over time on their position), the arguments made by groups and individuals concerned with what they believe is the relationship between corn-based ethanol and food supply should be debated fully. I, also, am inclined to believe those in the security business who feel that increased use of ethanol will reduce our dependency on important oil and lessen the nation’s need to fight wars in part to assure the world and the U.S. a share of global oil supply. Weaning ourselves from oil dependency is national need and priority.

It is tough to judge the efficacy of projections of ethanol sales, because of uncertain economic factors and the constraints put on consumer fuel choices by the oil industry’s almost-monopolistic restrictions at gas stations (just try buying safe, less costly alternative fuels at most gas stations) and federal regulations governing alternative fuel use as well as the sale of conversion kits. There is no free market for fuel.

Responding clearly to the conflicts over the value of corn-based ethanol and the annual total requirements for ethanol is not easy and should suggest the complexity of the involved issues and their presumed relationship to one another. Maybe increased use of corn stover and certainly natural gas-based ethanol for E85 would reduce food for fuel conflicts and lessen possible environmental problems. Nothing is perfect, but the production of ethanol using alternative feedstocks, such as stover and, hopefully soon, natural gas, could make a difference in providing better replacement fuels than just the use of corn based ethanol. Like a Talmudic scholar, I frequently, instead of counting sheep, find myself saying “on one hand, on the other hand” while trying to fall sleep. (I haven’t slept more than three full hours a night since Eisenhower was president.) I end up agreeing with the King in the King and I — “It’s a puzzlement!”

The EPA’s job is a tough one. Its lowering of the total amount of ethanol required to be used with gasoline may or may not have been the right decision. I know the EPA is considering modifying its initial estimates upward. We will have to wait and see what the Agency produces and then take part in a reasonable dialogue as to benefits and costs.

I am a somewhat more concerned about the basis used by the EPA to decide to lower ethanol requirements, at this point in time, than the new rules themselves. The rationale for the amended guidelines will become embedded in rulemaking and decisions could well generate unnecessary policy and constituent conflicts.

The Agency explained its recent decisions, in part, in terms of the absence of infrastructure and the possible harm that higher ethanol blends can do to vehicle engines. “EPA is proposing to adjust the applicable volumes of advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel to address projected availability of qualifying renewable fuels and limitations on the volume of ethanol that can be consumed in gasoline given practical constraints on the supply of higher ethanol blends to the vehicles that can use them and other limits on ethanol blend levels in gasoline (the ethanol blend wall).” Note that for the most part, the EPA does not dwell on environmental, economic or security issues in its basic rationale.

The EPA seems to mix supply and demand in a rather imprecise way. Ethanol is ethanol. Traditional infrastructure (e.g., pipelines) is not readily available now to transport ethanol from corn-based ethanol producers to blenders of gasoline and ethanol. But trains and heavy-duty vehicles are accessible and have provided reasonably efficient pipeline alternatives. Indeed, their availability, assuming modifications for safety concerns, particularly concerning trains, extends strategic options regarding the location of refineries/blenders and storage capacity to lessen leakage of environmentally harmful emissions.

The EPA’s argument for lowering ethanol requirements appears to rest, to a large degree, on a somewhat unconventional definition of supply. As one observer put it, the EPA’s regulations “muddle” the definition of supply with demand. There is an ample supply of ethanol now, indeed, a surplus. The EPA’s decision will likely increase the surplus or reduce the suppliers.

Demand for higher ethanol blends really has not been fairly tested in the analytical prelude to the recently changed regulations. Detroit and its dealers seem unwilling to clearly inform consumers of the government-approved use of blends higher than E15 in the flex-fuel cars that they are now producing and or are committed to producing in the future. Oil company franchise agreements limit replacement fuel pumps at their stations, often to off-center locations…somewhere near the men or women’s bathrooms, if at all. Correspondingly, the EPA’s regulations appear to mute the Agency’s own (and others) positive engine testing on E15 and its approval of E15 and E85 blends, within certain restrictions. Earlier, EPA studies were a bulwark against recent sustained attacks by the oil and, sometimes, the auto industry, as well as their friends on ethanol and its supposed negative affect on engines.

The EPA’s analysis of demand seems further blurred by the fact that if the Agency increased the supply of approved conversion kits, increased numbers of owners of existing vehicles would likely convert from gasoline to less-expensive ethanol-based fuels.

The EPA’s background rationale for the new RFS regulations understandably does not reflect the ability to produce ethanol from natural gas, a fuel in plentiful supply, and a natural gas to ethanol conversion process that may relatively soon be available. To do so would likely require an amendment to the RFS because natural gas is not a renewable fuel. The benefits include lower costs to the consumer, reduced import dependency and likely a decrease in pollutants and emissions. It appears a reasonable approach and provides a reasonable replacement fuel until renewable fuels are ready to compete for prime market time. Natural gas-based ethanol, as well as, as noted earlier, possible use of corn stover, would lessen the intensity of the food vs. fuel debate and the environmentalist concerns.

The EPA has tried hard to develop regulations that secure the public interest and appeal to varied constituencies. I respect its efforts. It’s a complicated task. I remember being asked by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to develop a report on simplifying its regulations for diverse programs. If I remember correctly, my report was over 600 pages long. Sufficiently said!

Growth Energy: Report proves food vs. fuel myth ‘completely unfounded’

Ethanol Producer magazine has an explanatory post on the USDA report released last week. Growth Energy, which represents ethanol producers, says the report is further evidence that the “food vs. fuel” debate used to undermine ethanol is flawed. Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, told the magazine: “In report after report, we see that the American farmer can produce an abundant amount of food and fuel. … It is clear that the food and fuel myth is completely unfounded and does a great disservice to the hardworking men and women that help feed the world and fuel our nation.”