Chicago Auto Show Blog

The Ethanol Debate

Posted by: Jennifer Morand

A few years ago, automakers filed a lawsuit against the Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to make E15 (gasoline with 15 percent ethanol) legal for all cars after 2007. They argued that the blend could cause damage to a majority of older cars on the road. However, since then, more research has surfaced that attests E15 is considered safe for use in model year 2001 and newer light-duty motor vehicles as they’re built with parts that can withstand the 15 percent blend. E15 is slowly springing up at gas stations and already powers NASCAR vehicles.

Growth Energy, a company that represents the producers and supporters of ethanol, came to the monthly Midwest Automotive Media Association meeting last week to provide an update to members of the automotive industry and mitigate negative claims.

Growth Energy touted ethanol’s positive attributes including:

* Stronger Economy: Ethanol uses American labor, American resources and American ingenuity. By raising the regulatory cap, the jobs and tax revenue created will help put our country back on track.

* Energy Independence: Ethanol replaces 661,000 barrels of petroleum per day (most petroleum is imported from other countries).

* Less Imported Oil: In 2008, The U.S. imported more than $1 billion dollars of oil a day, meaning the U.S. is dangerously dependent on foreign oil.

* Reduced Car Emissions: Ethanol has replaced the harmful gasoline additive MTBE in most states, and also reduces formaldehyde and carbon monoxide emissions. Additionally, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 59 percent compared to gasoline.

* More Jobs: For every one billion gallons of ethanol produced, 10,000 to 20,000 jobs will be created.

* Agriculture: U.S. ethanol production has created new, value-added markets for farm products, revitalizing agriculture and reducing government farm subsidies.

* Better for the Environment: Beyond reducing our air pollution, ethanol also replaces oil imported from overseas – reducing the likelihood of oil spills.

* Rural Development: New ethanol plants have spurted up across the country, reinvigorating the heartland, and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. Additionally, this is creating opportunity for building new rails, factories and pipelines.

* Lower Gas Prices: Ethanol helps save consumers money at the pump, potentially keeping the gas prices down by anywhere from 29 to 40 cents per gallon.

* More Reliable Energy Source: Ethanol is 100 percent renewable, so we’ll never run out of the resource.

* National Security: Overseas fossil fuel requires a large investment of our military forces. By using homegrown ethanol, we can begin to cut our stakes in volatile, oil-rich countries and bring our troops home.

* Renewable Energy: Ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions and protects the ecosystems.

* Competition: Ethanol gives gas competition, not only reducing the price of gas it’s blended into, but also preventing gasoline from having a fuel monopoly.

* Innovation: American ethanol can now be made from cellulose, a compound found in all plant matter, giving ethanol the potential to replace fossil fuels entirely within our lifetimes.

* A Better Future: With all of these benefits in mind, blended ethanol creates a better future for Americans. 

Now that you’ve heard Growth Entergy’s opinion of ethanol, granted one-sided, what are the key takeaways for consumers? If you own a 2001 model car or newer, E15 is considered safe for your engine. Additionally, unless you’re pulling a boat or another piece of heavy cargo, you won’t likely notice a big dip in your overall fuel economy. Because of its lower price, E15 is should save consumers money at the pump.

Since the EPA has approved E15, it’s ultimately up to individual businesses and consumers whether or not to adopt the blend. For business owners, adding E15 to its selections could mean an increase in sales, as consumers will be saving at the pump and are more likely to select the cheapest option – especially given the current high gasoline prices. For now, E15 remains a regional anomaly, sold in roughly 20 gas stations in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

What are your thoughts on E15? Would you use it? Comment here, message us on Facebook or tweet us @ChiAutoShow.


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