Last year, after President Obama gave his speech about increasing the CAFE requirements – in an effort to save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over a 15-year period– a few ethanol advocates took their frustration to the streets and formed the E100 Ethanol Group.
Why? Because as Don Siefkes, Executive Director of the organization points out, “Twenty gallons of gasoline per barrel means 36 billion gallons of gas saved over 15 years or 2.4 billion gallons of gasoline per year. We use 140 billion gallons of gasoline per year so we would save only 1.7 percent of our gasoline usage and it is going to cost $25-$50 billion to achieve this meager savings. We felt it ridiculous to spend so much for so little and decided to form our group and see what we could do.”
Siefkes explained that to make the U.S. independent of imported oil, as well as avoid having to deep water drill, we need to cut our usage of gasoline by 50 percent down to 70 billion gallons per year. The organization has invested time in reaching out and discussing the issues with various ethanol organizations, everyday drivers and retail gasoline stations to encourage them to help make change. So while the ethanol industry focuses on getting the E15 Waiver approved, a short-term fix for a long-term problem, E100 Ethanol Group has decided to focus on E100.
“After 100’s of millions of dollars invested and 17 years of trying to convince consumers to buy E85, only 0.13 percent of the 10 billion gallons of fuel grade ethanol sold in the U.S. in 2009 went into E85,” said Siefkes. The other 99.87 percent went into 10 percent gasoline blends. This is in spite of the fact that we have 8 million E85 capable vehicles on the road and over 2,000 E85 stations. Why is this?”
According to Siefkes, it’s because E85 offers negative value to the consumer who has to fill up more often and sees a fuel economy loss. “There is no evidence that simply putting more E85 vehicles and stations out there is going to correct this problem,” he said.
Siefkes continued by explaining the economics of E85. “While E85’s price is lower per gallon, it still costs the consumer more per mile to run since the price differential is not enough to overcome the poor mileage. This is not surprising since the oil companies control the price of E85. Ethanol producers sell the ethanol to the oil company blenders who then sell the blend to the retail franchisee. Furthermore, this means the oil companies get the ethanol tax credit of .45 cents per gallon which amounted to $4.5 billion in 2009.”
This brings Siefkes to the reason why his organization feels E100 is the way to go. “E100 (98% ethanol / 2% isopropanol) burning in optimized ethanol engines would mean ethanol producers could sell the fuel directly to the retail franchisee creating price competition for motor fuels for the first time ever.”
The IndyCar Series has been demonstrating for several years that engines optimized for E100 show increased performance. The goal of this program was to encourage automakers to develop engines optimized for ethanol, rather than gasoline.
Yet the auto industry has been slow to develop engines optimized for ethanol, in part, because they have no incentive to do so. That’s why a mandate is needed, says Siefkes, since the auto industry won’t make any more money selling a car that can burn E100 versus one that doesn’t.
So how are these types of changes made? Through proposed legislation and consumer activation for an issue. Today, Siefkes is promoting that legislators should amend Senate Bills 835 and 3464 to require that 50 percent of all light duty vehicles sold in the U.S. by the end of 2016 be E100 capable with an E100 highway mileage of 30 miles per gallon (mpg) for mid-size and small vehicles and 24 mpg for larger vehicles.
His organization is also calling for the government to provide $500 million for installing 12,000 blender pumps in the U.S. This, says Seifkes, would give an E100 infrastructure every 2 miles in the largest 100 cities and every 25 miles on major roads. “This is a drop in the bucket compared to what we are spending on other matters,” concluded Siefkes.
While the E100 Ethanol Group may be alone in promoting E100, rather than E85 as the primary fuel, they are not alone in their quest to help America become energy independent through various measures including the move to renewable biofuels.