May 27, 2009

Ethanol-blended gas a bad deal

It's not enough that consumers are already being forced to buy ethanol-blended gasoline that yields worse mileage and offers, at best, questionable environmental benefits.

Now ethanol producers want to increase the legal limit on the amount of their product in your gasoline.

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering bumping the cap on ethanol from 10 percent to 15 percent at the pump.

That request from a group of ethanol producers comes after Congress in 2007 ordered big surges in ethanol consumption, requiring refiners to blend 36billion gallons of renewable fuels with gasoline a year by 2022, up from 9 billion gallons in 2008.

Last year, Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature ordered that E10 (the 10 percent blend) be used throughout Florida by the end of 2010.

The state is well on its way to that. Nonethanol blended gasoline hasn't been available in Orlando for at least a year.

Big fuel supply companies are investing millions of dollars to make sure they can transport the stuff.

Last year I reported on how Kinder Morgan, the company that owns the 110-mile pipeline that transports nearly all of Orlando's fuel supply from Tampa, was preparing an experimental run of ethanol through the line.

The test batch of 5,000 barrels of ethanol from Tampa to Orlando in October was a success, the company said.

Kinder Morgan has invested $10million to modify the line, including replacing pipeline equipment that would have been corroded by ethanol and expanding storage capacity at its terminal in Taft.

As of last month, 40 percent of the ethanol used in Orlando was transmitted through the pipeline, up from about 10 percent at the beginning of the year, said Jim Lelio, national biofuels manager and director of business development for Kinder Morgan.

The company also approved $90million in ethanol and biofuel projects including modifications to tanks, truck racks and other infrastructure to accommodate ethanol at its other terminals in the Southeast and Pacific Northwest.

Simply put, ethanol isn't going anywhere.

Its effects are here to stay. The question is how much worse it will get.

You've likely noticed at least a 10 percent drop in the fuel efficiency of your vehicle as a result of ethanol. And you may have even lost a lawn mower or chain saw if you didn't realize that ethanol-laced fuel will ruin small engines if it sits for any period of time.

E15 (the proposed 15 percent blend) would be even less efficient and more harmful.

An EPA study even found that corn ethanol emits more greenhouse gases than gasoline over 30 years when indirect effects such as the plowing of forests to make way for more corn crops as a result of increased ethanol demand are considered.

In the name of conserving petroleum, lessening our dependence on foreign oil and saving the environment we are ... being forced to fill our tanks more often?

Join the club if you don't think it makes much sense.

But don't stay silent. The EPA last week extended its public comment period on the request to increase the ethanol cap from 10percent to 15 percent. Comments must be submitted by July 20. Go to www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions or e-mail a-and-r-docket@epa.gov. You can also fax your comment to 202-566-1741.

Beth Kassab can be reached at bkassab@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5448. Read her blog at orlandosentinel.com/thebottomline.

We admire Ms Kassab's analysis and work but we disagree with her.

The science in the article is lacking. Why does the ethanol additive provide poorer mpg?
Our discussions with friends that drive Flex fuel cars seems very positive.

If the war in Iraq(both 1 and 2) were predicated on a way to protect and offer low cost oil supplies to the world(as we believe) then many of the deaths of American boys and girls from those wars could have been prevented if we were gathering our transportation power from more local ie USA sources prior to the wars.

Ethanol can be made largely in the states and it is a very young industry in all but the midwest so it will take time to build an ethanol infrastructure(but there are federal monies for this)

There is discussion of the first ethanol plant to be built in south Fla to use waste from grasses so it need not be corn based only. Most of you will remember your high school chemistry class where you made alcohols from many different base ingredients. Corn is not the only byproduct that ethanol can be made from.

Is ethanol grown in the USA and providing USA jobs worse than:
-relying on oil drilled in such unreliable areas as Nigeria or even Iraq, Venezuela, etc
-digging up much of Western Canada for oil shale and the horrible environmental issues that ensue
-funding a gigantic USA war machine in the Middle East to prop up governments that treat women as 4th class citizens
-funding the above USA war machine with the lives of Americans just to provide defense against Islamic radicals so middle eastern governments can profit from the drilling of oil and gas

Why has Brazil, not a small country in any manner, had such a pleasant experience with ethanol based transportation funding up to 50% of their transportation needs with flex fuel.

The world is finally evolving it's transportation power away from oil and gas. This evolution will take time but hopefully it will offer a more variegated approach(electric, hydrogen, ethanol, etc) and the Americas will all be safer and richer as a result

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