Study: U.S. gas topped 10% mark in ethanol for first time last year

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

In what in­dus­try lead­ers her­alded as proof that the “blend wall” is noth­ing more than a myth, a new study re­leased Wed­nes­day shows that U.S. gaso­line con­tained more than 10 per­cent ethanol on av­er­age for the first time last year.

The re­port, re­leased by the Re­new­able Fu­els As­so­ci­a­tion (RFA) and cit­ing re­cent data from the fed­eral En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, says that the av­er­age ethanol con­tent in gaso­line last year was 10.04 per­cent — the first time it’s topped the 10-per­cent mark, which ethanol crit­ics have main­tained was the limit for safe op­er­a­tion for the coun­try’s fuel in­fra­struc­ture and for many au­to­mo­biles.

The news comes amid un­cer­tainty for the ethanol in­dus­try un­der Pres­i­dent Trump. While the pres­i­dent was highly sup­port­ive of ethanol and the Re­new­able Fuel Stan­dard — the 2007 leg­is­la­tion that man­dated ethanol be mixed into the na­tion’s gas sup­ply at in­creased lev­els each year — other ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, such as EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt, have been much more skep­ti­cal.

There’s also an in­creased ef­fort from oil-and-gas in­dus­try lead­ers, who clearly have the ear of the White House and the EPA, to stop the growth of the ethanol in­dus­try and halt in­creased blend­ing into gas sup­plies.

For now, how­ever, the ethanol sec­tor says Wed­nes­day’s re­port is proof that go­ing be­yond 10 per­cent ethanol in gaso­line isn’t the ma­jor is­sue some have made it out to be.

“EIA’s data once again shows that the oil in­dus­try’s blend wall nar­ra­tive is bank­rupt, in­tended only to mis­lead con­sumers and un­der­mine sup­port for the Re­new­able Fuel Stan­dard,” said Bob Din­neen, pres­i­dent and CEO of RFA, the ethanol in­dus­try’s lead­ing trade group. “The facts pro­vide a dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tive. Ethanol is the low­est cost and clean­est burn­ing source of oc­tane to­day. Driven by the RFS and attractive blend­ing eco­nom­ics, do­mes­tic re­fin­ers and blenders used more ethanol in 2016 than ever be­fore and it’s likely that trend will con­tinue this year.”

Ac­cord­ing to the govern­ment fig­ures, to­tal U.S. gas con­sump­tion was about 143.367 bil­lion gal­lons last year, and that fuel con­tained just un­der 14.4 bil­lion gal­lons of ethanol. That made the av­er­age con­tent in a gal­lon of gaso­line about 10.04 per­cent.

The trend ac­cel­er­ated in the lat­ter part of the year and con­tin­ued into 2017.

The RFA said that na­tional av­er­age ethanol con­tent was at 10 per­cent or higher in six of the last seven months of 2016. In De­cem­ber, it hit a record high of 10.30 per­cent.

That num­ber was even higher in early 2017, hit­ting 10.41 per­cent in early Jan­uary, the RFA said. But the oil-and-gas in­dus­try is re­dou­bling its ef­forts to stop even more ethanol from end­ing up in the na­tion’s fuel sup­ply. Ear­lier this month, the Amer­i­can Pe­tro­leum In­sti­tute — the sec­tor’s lead­ing trade group and a pow­er­ful force in Wash­ing­ton — re­leased a poll that found 68 per­cent of vot­ers say they’re con­cerned about more ethanol in gaso­line, and 74 per­cent said they be­lieve govern­ment ethanol man­dates could raise fuel prices.

Ethanol pro­po­nents have ques­tioned the study and its find­ings.

Mov­ing for­ward, there is le­git­i­mate con­cern that higher ethanol blends, such as the 15-per­cent blend known as E15, may not be safe for all en­gines and that even­tu­ally ethanol will in­deed hit a blend wall.

“Nearly 85 per­cent of ve­hi­cles on the road to­day were not de­signed for higher ethanol blends, such as E15,” Frank Mac­chiarola, down­stream group direc­tor at API, said ear­lier this month. “Higher ethanol blends threaten en­gines and fuel sys­tems — po­ten­tially forc­ing driv­ers to pay for costly re­pairs, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try test­ing. And the public re­mains un­easy about that, with three quar­ters of re­spon­dents ex­press­ing con­cern about breach­ing the blend wall.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A re­port re­leased by Re­newal Fu­els As­so­ci­a­tion says that the av­er­age ethanol con­tent in gaso­line last year was 10.04 per­cent, the first time it’s topped the 10 per­cent mark.

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