Several Groups Disappointed with E15 Decision

Joanna Schroeder

Not everyone is happy with the latest E15 ruling from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Last Friday, the EPA ruled to allow consumers who drive conventional vehicles or light duty trucks manufactured between 2001-2006 to use E15, a blend of 15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline. In October of 2010, the EPA allowed the use of E15 in the model year 2007 or newer.

One group who is disappointed with the decision is the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). “It’s very disappointing that the administration made this decision given the rising price of corn and the lower estimate for this year’s corn harvest that recently was announced,” said Randy Spronk, a hog and crop farmer from Edgerton, Minn., who serves on NPPC’s board of directors and is chairman of the organization’s Environment Committee.

Last week, the USDA announced the final corn harvest numbers, down 5 percent from previous estimates. The report states that corn stockpiles were the lowest on record and that the national “carryover is now expected to be less than three weeks’ worth. The ethanol industry found that the lower number would not negatively affect any industries that use corn.

NPPC “strongly opposes” raising the blend rate because they claim it will put further upward pressure on corn supplies, increasing pork producers’ cost of production and reduce supplies. The ethanol industry denies that this will be a result of allowing E15. NPPC is one of several livestock groups that filed a lawsuit in federal court last November against the EPA over the E15 decision.

“EPA’s decision means more corn will be used for ethanol production and that means the price on a shrinking supply will rise,” Spronk said. “We don’t want a repeat of a couple of years ago when, due mostly to high feed-grain prices, pork producers lost an average of almost $24 a hog over a 28-month period, and the industry lost nearly $6 billion. We saw a lot of family hog farms go out of business during that time.”

Also opposed to this decision is a “diverse coalition or organizations” that sent out an press release containing statements from a number of the coalition members. Robb Mackie, the President and CEO of the American Bakers Association stated, “EPA’s decision to increase the ethanol blend to E15 will further increase volatility in the grain markets. This could hasten the reduction in wheat acres and raise Americans’ food bills. U.S. cropland is already stretched to its limit. Increasing the blend has the potential to further impact commodity stocks and ultimately food prices. The grain markets are currently experiencing near record volatility and prices have edged closer to the record levels of 2008.”

But “food versus food,” that has largely been disputed by third party research, is not the only argument from the opposition against using E15. Others cite engine problems, negative net energy, and ethanol “environmental crimes” as other reasons this decision should not have been made by the EPA.

“With this decision, the Obama administration has just voided car warranties for millions of Americans at the behest of the corn and ethanol lobby,” said Shelia Karpf, the Legislative and Policy Analyst fro the Environmental Working Group. The confusion at the pump will be unimaginable, as will the costly burden placed on taxpayers as cars and small engines not made to burn corn ethanol break down after misfueling. Taxpayers have invested billions in a fuel that does little to reduce our dependence on foreign oil while tearing up the land and polluting fresh water.”

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