Friday, April 17, 2009

Will E15 Help or Hurt the United States?

Will E15 Help or Hurt the United States?

The current EPA guidelines limit the amount of Ethanol in gasoline to 10% (E10) and the EPA is hearing testimony from representatives of the Auto and Farming industries over the proposal to raise that limit to 15% (E15). Lobbyists on the side of the farmers are attempting to stimulate corn prices after the recent fall in commodities prices. According to The Wall Street Journal, America currently uses about ¼ of its corn for Ethanol production.

Ethanol is thought to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and be better on the environment from an emissions standpoint. However, it takes almost as much fossil energy to produce ethanol as is produced so this argument is relatively weak when studied in detail. There is also the added argument that the production of corn causes deforestation for clearing and the release of carbon from the soil during plowing. All of this seem to negate the energy independence and environmental arguments for Ethanol. In my opinion, the only real argument for E15 helping the US economy is by the saving/creation of jobs for farmers in the Midwest.

Lobbyist from the automobile industry have been arguing against increases in Ethanol content due to its adverse effect on engine and fuel system parts in cars. Ethanol can prematurely erode rubber components and cause engine failure. In order to combat this problem, manufacturers would need to re-engineer components to comply with changing standards. In my opinion, the resources of our automobile manufacturers should be funneled toward making advancements in fuel efficiency and towards transitions to non-fossil fuels. The current production methods for Ethanol in the United States do not classify it’s as a non-fossil fuel in my opinion due to the large fossil outlay for fertilizer, transportation …

Switching to E15 is not the right move for the environment and the economy right now. Let’s focus on achieving real sustainable solutions that do not funnel automakers R&D resources into areas with limited potential. Detroit already has enough problems, let’s not further complicate things by continually changing the standards for fuel without justifiable reasoning.


1) Hughes, Siobhan and Etter, Lauren; “EPA Considers Higher Ethanol Mix,” The Wall Street Journal; April 17, 2009. p A5

2) Chakrabortty, Aditya; “Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis,” July 3, 2008;

3) Pollan, Maichael; “Farmer and Chief,” October 12, 2008;

4) “Ford Supprts Collabrative Efforts on E15,” March 11, 2009;


John D. said...

I have never been able to understand the economic or environmental reasoning behind ethanol subsidies. There are major problems with the technical feasibility of ethanol as an alternative to gasoline and I believe it isn't fair to the majority of Americans. Yes, more of our money is going to farmers in Iowa instead of OPEC but these policies raise the price of food and take money from the American tax payer. The U.S. government is playing favorites with its citizens. It raises the costs of living for the majority to make a minority rich. It simply isn't fair. Also, we know corn based ethanol is expensive, may not even be energy positive, cannot be produced at the same volumes as gasoline, has lower energy density, turns wilderness into cropland, and raises the price of natural gas (fertilizer, distillation, etc.).

Personally I would rather take a tax cut, pay less at the grocery store, lower my gas bill, and pay less at the pump. Why can't we do something that makes sense?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Speaking of ethanol, there's an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal about the economics of ethanol.

John D. said...

I liked the reference to the field of dreams: