The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act was meant to put biofuels, especially ethanol, into a more important role in the United States fuel mix, but a recent EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) proposal seems to have put that on hold.
Ethanol, a biofuel made mostly from corn, has been a part of the United States fuel mix for a while now, depending on season and region, between 5% and 10%, and for special vehicles, up to 85%. Currently, the US consumes about 133 billion gallons per year. E10 is the maximum that conventional vehicles can take without destroying fuel systems, at least according to the oil companies. Automakers, as well, have problems with the increasing amount of ethanol in the fuel supply.
The push for biofuels helps to reduce emissions, as well as reduce the amount of oil that the US needs to import or drill. Automakers specializing in E85 vehicles, those that are designed to run on blends of ethanol up to 85%, help to reduce this amount even more, since their vehicles burn just 15% of the gasoline that conventional vehicles do. Building more E85 vehicles would require building more E85 refueling stations, since refueling equipment suffers from the same problems as conventional vehicle fuel delivery systems when exposed to ethanol blends over 10%.
The 2014 biofuels target was set at 18.15 billion gallons. If all the fuel consumed in the US was E10, this would amount to just 13.3 billion gallons. The other 4.85 billion gallons would have been made up by E85 stations, since conventional vehicles and stations can’t go beyond the 10% ethanol barrier. The November 15th EPA proposal has just reduced that minimum target to 15.21 billion gallons, leaving just 1.91 billion gallons to be fed into E85 vehicles, a 60% reduction in demand for ethanol, equipment, and E85 vehicles.
There’s still a sixty-day public opinion period before the proposal might be approved. Aside from biofuels producers possibly being out 60% of their future business, companies specializing in E85 delivery equipment and automakers with E85 vehicles are bound to suffer as well. Don’t forget the increase in carbon dioxide emissions, as well!
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