Corn-based ethanol continues to face controversy and opposition from food and agriculture interests, and with EPA allowing new registrations for the sale of higher ethanol blended gasoline, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told ethanol makers this week the fuel’s “public record” has to be set straight.
EPA formally published its evaluation of its emissions and health effects data and said it will begin accepting new registrations with the agency to sell an 85% gasoline/15% (E15) ethanol fuel blend. The agency previously approved a waiver for the use of E15 in vehicles manufactured after 2000. USDA doesn’t see much of an immediate effect from new registrations given the cost to retailers to shift from E10 to E15 is substantial, and major investment is necessary to sell both fuels.
Meanwhile, Vilsack told the Renewable Fuels Assn. (RFA) National Ethanol Conference that it’s been tough for the department the last few years trying to “set the record straight about the effects of ethanol production on food costs… (and) contributions to the global feed market.”
Vilsack warned the RFA there continues to be a strong need to defend Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) mandates on ethanol, as well as building a broader market for the fuel and investment in “innovative emerging technologies.” Vilsack said he sees the ethanol industry as “the platform for our transition to producing more advanced biofuels.” He said EPA’s decision on E15 is important, but maintaining the RFS is a greater priority, citing oil company efforts to modify or eliminate the federal mandate.
In a related development, a coalition of more than 20 agriculture, food, automobile and business associations has publicly registered its opposition to the so-called “Open Fuels Standard”, a move by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D, WA) and Richard Lugar (R, IN) to mandate 80% of gasoline-powered light duty vehicles manufactured and sold in the U.S. be capable of running on any combination of ethanol, methanol and gasoline by 2018. The groups called the amendment to Senate highway bill a “massive new tax on consumers.”