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Evaluating The Cost Of A Renewed Summer E15 Ban

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A matter of life or death, in many ways

Marc Rauch
By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

An editorial written and published recently (August 5th) by Cindy Zimmerman of presents a somewhat depressing picture for the ethanol fuel industry. The headline on Cindy's piece is "Renewed Summer E15 Ban Would Cost Industry Billions."

When I say Cindy's editorial is "somewhat" depressing, that's not to minimize the significance of losing billions of dollars in revenue. But, in relationship to the loss of the entire ethanol fuel industry, which is exactly what will happen if the willy-nilly frenzied rush towards an electric vehicle fantasyland continues, then losing a few billion dollars is a relatively minor event.

This scenario is becoming more likely because internal combustion engines powered by ethanol (either exclusively or in high ethanol-gasoline blend levels) has not been given a fair shake. Among the primary reasons why ethanol has not been given a fair shake is because there's been far too much pussyfooting going on...too much "let's have lunch" with Congressional aides...way too much hope that enough elected officials will have a sudden epiphany and realize that their support of the oil industry has contributed to the death of millions of humans. Oh, and there's been far too much concern about upsetting the feelings of people in the oil industry.

On several occasions, I've heard ethanol industry stakeholders say: "We have to be careful and not rock the boat too hard because the oil industry is our biggest customer."

This may have been a good point a decade or two ago. But there's a paradigm shift going on and the ethanol fuel industry no longer has to kowtow to the oil industry. The shoe is now on the other foot.

How? Why?

Simple, if the internal combustion engine goes away, the oil industry is fu... - screwed. The only thing that can make gasoline acceptable in a world consumed with the fear of environmental catastrophe is if enough ethanol is used in every gallon of liquid fuel. The oil industry has already tried their best options to raise octane to the levels needed to operate high compression internal combustion engines: tetraethyl lead and MTBE. They have nothing else.

Even if gasoline was only making up 10% or 15% in a gallon of fuel (via an E85 or E90 blend), at least they would have some kind of market left for gasoline as a transportation fuel. If vehicles go 100% electric, there is 0% market for gasoline. And there would be 0% market for ethanol fuel.

This is all happening because there has been no significant, determined outreach to the public about the benefits of ethanol. It has not been explained to them that ethanol fuel in an internal combustion engine is at least as clean as electric, if not more so. It has not been explained to the frightened public that ethanol, which can be used in every single internal combustion engine, is available right now...TODAY!

Consumers and consumer-influencers are currently about as ignorant of ethanol fuel as they were 25 years ago. The ethanol industry has failed to create the level of clamor that is necessary to build a groundswell of consumer demand that would force political office holders to take their heads out of their a----, er well, take their hands out of the pockets of the oil industry, and mandate significantly higher ethanol blends. Think of it like this:


A few days ago, someone in the ethanol fuel business said to me, "My husband and I think that E15 is stupid." Well, I agree, I think E15 is stupid. It may have been smart 11 years ago, when the EPA first publically announced that E15 had passed all its tests and that it is as safe to use as E10. A mandate back then moving America's regular fuel to E15 would have been an okay natural progression from E10. But a decade has been lost.

Coincidentally, by 2010, Brazil had already been safely, efficiently, and economically using E15 or higher blends for more than three decades. These 30+ years proved that any alarms related to using E15 or higher blends in "summer temperatures" was bunk! Brazil began regularly mandating E20 and higher in 1984.

The fact that Brazilians didn't drop dead by the millions because of the emissions coming from vehicles using E15 and higher should have been evidence enough that it was safe for America (and the rest of the world) to come out of the E10 closet. (Brazil's population increased from about 115 million in 1978, to about 196 million in 2010.) And in case you didn't know, when the EPA conducted its E15 testing, they didn't just test E15, they also tested E20. The results for E20 were the same as E15 and E10: IT IS SAFE.

By the way, I know this because I'm the one who asked the question about testing blends higher than E15 during the October 13, 2010 press conference that supposedly "granted" E15 use (listen to the press conference by clicking on the video window just below.

In the meantime - that is in the 11 years since the EPA granted the use of E15 in America - we are now a full decade closer to oblivion, if we are to believe that we are marching towards the end of all animal life because of man-made climate change.

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Now, it's not really important if Earth's climate is truly changing for the worst because of human activity. We only really have to worry about the perception that it is, and the growing awareness (wokeness) that we have as little as a handful of years left before we all die. With this dreaded predicament guiding politicians to enact and decree the end of the internal combustion engine, the gasoline/diesel industry (along with the ethanol fuel industry) must be prepared to say "goodbye, sayonara, adieu, adios, arrivederci, au revoir, shalom, ciao, auf wiedersehen."

Therefore, the petroleum oil industry is not in danger of losing a few billion dollars, they're in danger of losing TRILLIONS of dollars. This is why the ethanol fuel industry should now be driving the bus (pun intended).

As my business partner and I opined in a 2019 editorial, "Ethanol is the SAVIOR of the Oil Industry and much more" (read the editorial by CLICKING HERE).

However, for the ethanol industry to save itself, the oil industry, and all life on planet Earth, they have to stop pussyfooting around. It won't happen by taking another Congressional aide to lunch. It won't happen by complacently standing by as the California Air Resources Board duplicates the testing that the EPA conducted more than 11 years ago and the equivalent Brazilian agency conducted three decades ago. And it definitely won't happen by politely allowing the latest gold-digging political appointees to the Environmental Protection Agency to ponder, yet again, what position they should take on protecting our environment and being of any value to our country.

The process of saving the fuel industries, as well as life on Earth, might happen with an aggressive program that educates and motivates consumers and consumer-influencers. A program like this could force a change in thinking regarding the enormous usefulness of internal combustion engines and the fuel that powers those engines.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the first automotive journalist event held since the onslaught of the Covid-19 crisis early last year. It was the Western Automotive Journalists Media Days get-together. WAJ is the second-largest automotive-journalist group in America. These types of events are a great way to talk directly to the people who create and spread news about the automotive world. These are the people who influence most automotive-buying decisions. (Participating in these events are part of the education and awareness program that The Auto Channel has been recommending to the ethanol fuel industry - our program is called NEAT, National Ethanol Action Team.)

On the opening night of this year's WAJ event, the keynote presentation that was given prior to dinner was made by a company that is testing - in the hope of selling - an electric tractor for farm use. Frankly, I liked the presentation, and found the information interesting - it may even be interesting information to you reading this editorial. But the better presentation, the more important Earth-saving presentation would have been centered on ethanol fuel and how ethanol will save the industry that these journalists are all serving. At best, the electric tractors will be readily available in a few years. If time is of the essence - you know, to save the loss of billions of dollars and all life on planet Earth - then presentations about electric tractors are almost the last thing that an important consumer-influencing group like WAJ should be hearing about.

You may ask, "Does the automotive consumer-influencing community need to learn about ethanol?" The answer is an unequivocal "you bet your ass they do." They only know the negative lies spread about ethanol. To prove it, you should read the exchange I had a few months ago with some highly respected consumer-influencing automotive journalists. The complete exchange is contained in my essay "Plumbing the Depths of Ethanol Ignorance."

The automotive journalists that I wrote about are very good at being "car guys." They represent the overwhelming majority of people in the auto industry and they mirror the typical interests of the public. From the top to the bottom, from the influencers to the consumers, people like these guys are the hearts and minds of the automotive world. Their low understanding and little appreciation of ethanol fuel represents the automotive marketplace's general level of misunderstanding and unappreciation of ethanol fuel. The automotive industry is where the battleground for the ethanol fuel industry lies (not in the halls of Congress). You lose here, you lose everywhere. A determined public will make their own ethanol fuel, if needed, or they will blend their own E30, E40, E50 and E60 - but they have to be told the truth about ethanol so that they can make an informed decision.

No one, other than The Auto Channel, is regularly addressing, confronting, and educating consumers and consumer-influencers on the benefits of ethanol fuel. The Auto Channel is the only independent consumer-influencing media entity that is ready and capable of launching a program that might help to save billions of dollars and billions of living creatures (if the world is really being threatened by catastrophic man-made climate change). It can only happen with the support of ethanol's stakeholders. The alternative is sayonara, adieu, adios, arrivederci, au revoir, shalom, ciao, auf wiedersehen, and so long!