via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.
Bush administration failed to act on effort
to boost blend max above 10%
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Recent confirmation hearings for USDA Secretary
Tom Vilsack and Energy Secretary Steven Chu saw some farm-state lawmakers
questioning them relative to renewable fuels and ethanol in particular,
including increasing the ethanol blend beyond 10 percent for most vehicles.
Vilsack said that ethanol must move beyond its use of corn
and into the area of cellulosic feedstocks, such as wood waste
and the non-edible parts of crop plants, if the industry hopes to mature
and meet the requirement of 36 billion gallons used each year by 2022.
“To meet that law will be a challenge unless we do a better job
of accelerating research and development on a variety of second- and
third-generation feed stocks for biofuels,” Vilsack said. “There
are issues involving the nature of those feed stocks, the processing
opportunities they present, and challenges, the transportation issues
that are involved, the capacity to store. All of those have to be looked
at, and in a very accelerated way.”
Vilsack said going beyond what’s required in energy
bill passed in December 2007 to blending 15 or 20 percent ethanol into
each gallon of gasoline might be out of reach. He said it was
up to the federal government to lead the charge so that renewable, American-grown
biofuels can be a bigger part of the energy equation. “USDA has
a very, very important role to play to make sure we indeed provide the
research, the focus and the direction to meet whatever the requirements
are,” Vilsack said.
When Chu was asked whether a higher ethanol
blend might be needed to meet the energy bill’s requirement for
use of 36 billion gallons of biofuels each year, he did not specifically
address the question and started talking about cars. “This
is partly a technical question as to whether the automobile manufacturers’
engines, without major redesign -- my understanding is when you go up
to E10 this is all right. You can replace the fuel lines to make them
resistant to this ethanol blend,” Chu said. “You can go to
E85 and that works. I frankly don’t know -- this is one of the things
we have to look at regarding the automobile industry as to whether they
can safely go to E15 or E20 or higher. This is something that’s
on the table.”
Monte Shaw of the Iowa Renewable Fuels
Association said that a change at the pump could dramatically increase
ethanol production. The group would like to see current
blends of gasoline with 10 percent ethanol become an E-20 blend. He said
even an E-13 could make a big difference. "That would immediately
create a demand or at least the potential for the demand of another four
billion gallons of ethanol," he said. He said he is working with
the Environmental Protection Agency to change those standards for cars.
He said he is hopeful that the Obama administration and Vilsack will help
with those efforts.
Comments: The ethanol blend
topic was punted on by the Bush administration in its closing weeks and
months. After repeated messages from EPA spokesmen that the Bush team
wanted to announce something on this topic before they departed, the only
announcement was no decision was made. Now it is up to the Obama team
to determine the blend percentage issue. Based on the comments from Vilsack
and Chu detailed previously, a final decision on this topic certainly
is not on the front burner at this time. And with new and likely more
players via the Obama administration, proponents of a higher ethanol blend,
who were wrong in predicting the Bush team would announce a boost from
the 10 percent maximum percentage, have their work cut out for them.
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retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.