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Increasing ethanol blend makes sense as volume targets increase


Increasing the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline is a logical next step to achieve the biofuels consumption increases prescribed by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, according to the Nebraska Corn Board.

A number of ethanol advocacy groups have asked the Environmental Protection Agency to do just that--to allow ethanol blended with gasoline to increase up to 15 percent (e15). The current standard is a 10 percent blend, or e10.

The EISA has already set ethanol volume targets, but the ability to meet those targets depends on getting ethanol blended into gasoline at increasing rates, explained Randy Klein, director of market development for the Nebraska Corn Board.

"In order to reach 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022 as established by the Energy Independence and Security Act, we need to move beyond e10 because it will take less than 15 billion gallons of ethanol to reach the e10 blend limit in all gas sold in the United States," Klein said. "Moving to e15, or perhaps a stair step approach to e12 or e13, is one way to begin heading down that path."

At the same time, he said, efforts are needed to increase the availability of flex fuel vehicles that can use up to an 85 percent ethanol blend (e85). "That will allow ethanol blend pumps to become more common, which will be necessary as we move to the higher ethanol levels required by the Energy Independence Act," Klein said.

As for moving to e15, groups that submitted the petition to EPA provided a number of research reports that support the increase. "Several studies show vehicles on the road today work safely and efficiently with a 15 or even 20 percent ethanol blend," Klein said. "In fact, some cars performed better on the higher blend. That really isn't a surprise considering that Brazil requires an e25 blend in all conventional cars."

Moving from a 10 to 15 percent blend would also allow ethanol to replace some 7 billion gallons of gasoline, which is the equivalent of about 350 million barrels of oil. "That is a lot less oil we would need to import into this country," Klein said, "and replacing gasoline with cleaner burning ethanol would also provide environmental benefits."

Klein added that America's corn farmers exceeded market demand for corn over the last year, creating a surplus, so there is no question about the corn supply available to meet demands from the ethanol sector and others. "Corn farmers demonstrated they can meet the demands placed upon them for feed, food, fuel and fiber, and at the same time help Nebraska take advantage of the corn to ethanol to distillers grains to livestock value-added chain that is so good for this state's economy," he said.

The Nebraska Corn Board is a self-help program, funded and managed by Nebraska corn farmers. Producers invest in the program at a rate of 1/4 of a cent per bushel of corn sold. Nebraska corn checkoff funds are invested in programs of market development, research and education.

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