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New Hampshire May Ban Corn Ethanol Blending

April 1, 2011

The state of New Hampshire may have come to its senses and realized that it has the power to prohibit the blending of ethanol in gasoline. After all, five states have active mandatory E10 laws, so if a state can legally mandate ethanol in all gasoline sold in the state, a state surely has the right to prohibit ethanol blending in all gasoline sold in the state. There is NO mandatory federal E10 law.

Of course the ethanol lobby is not happy about this turn of events.  Bob Dineen, president and chief executive officer of RFA, wrote a letter to New Hampshire lawmakers calling for the rejection of HB 374.  He made the following ludicrous and untrue statement:

Finally, there are serious questions relating to the legal authority of the state to undermine federal renewable energy policy and the Clean Air Act.”

This is the normal argument that ethanol and gasoline producer lobbyists make at public hearings when a state wants to prohibit the blending of ethanol in gasoline to protect their marine, aviation, off road recreational vehicle and public safety industries. They can repeat it over and over but it isn’t true. There is no mandatory federal E10 law, so banning ethanol blending in gasoline does not “… undermine federal renewable energy policy …”.

All that the legislators at the state public committee hearings need ask is, “What is the definition of Renewable Fuel?” and “Show me a federal statute that defines E10 as Renewable Fuel and mandates it as such.”  The fact is that Renewable Fuel is defined in the federal Renewable Fuel Standard section of H.R. 6 (2007), aka the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, or EISA 2007 (Section 201 – 210, pg. 28 – 41) as E85. Read the act. E10 is never mentioned in EISA 2007, because E10 is gasoline made to ASTM D4814 laced with ethanol, which is legal for use as an oxygenate additive.  The EPA and ASTM recognize E10 as gasoline. It is NOT Renewable Fuel. E85, or Fuel Ethanol, is made to ASTM D5798 and is defined in the federal RFS as Renewable Fuel. The only way a state could undermine federal renewable energy policy would be to ban the sale of E85. Ask the lobbyists to cite federal statute that defines Renewable Fuel as E10.

As to whether prohibiting the blending of ethanol in gasoline is undermining the Clean Air Act in New Hampshire, the ethanol lobby doesn’t have a leg to stand on, because the state of New Hampshire has no EPA mandate to oxygenate gasoline to meet air quality.

Finally, the argument that ethanol costs less than gasoline is specious.  There have been two long periods since EISA 2007 went into effect in January, 2008 that ethanol has been more expensive than gasoline, and has certainly directly increased the price of gasoline. The other problem is that ethanol has less energy than gasoline so cars buy fuel more often and if anecdotal evidence here in Oregon, a mandatory E10 state, is any indication, the mileage decrease for a large number of cars indicates that we are burning more gasoline, even with 10% of it replaced by ethanol, than we were before the law went into effect. The problem is that we have no way of knowing because nobody has ever done a large scale, statistically significant, independent scientific study of mileage before and after a mandatory E10 law. But one thing we do know is that no cars built before 2007 had a fuel map that knew what E10 was and how to adjust to it, other than dumping more gas into the cylinder until the oxygen sensor settles down … if it ever does. Who really knows since all of that technology is proprietary.

The fact of the matter is that the RFS section of EISA 2007 was supposed to increase the production, distribution and use of E85 through copious amounts of corporate welfare that was built into the act. However, because of the unintended consequences of the economic melt down and the fact nobody wants to buy a more expensive “Flex-Fuel” vehicle which gets terrible mileage on almost impossible to find E85, E10 is now spreading throughout the entire gasoline pool in the U.S. because of the hard coded ethanol quota in the act. However, there is no federal legal requirement that states must just stand by and watch these unintended consequences further harm their marine, aviation, off road recreational vehicle and public safety industries.

Update:  The New Hampshire senate killed this bill … of course.

2 comments

  1. The Senate voted to end ethanol tax credits 73-27. What’s your take on this latest turn of events?


    • The ethanol tax credit, or the VEETC, which is paid to oil companies, not ethanol producers makes absolutely no difference. It is not an incentive to blend ethanol, and hasn’t been since EISA 2007 was passed into law in early 2008. All ethanol blending is is controlled by a hard coded quota table in the act and every year more and more ethanol must be blended into gasoline. Unfortunately the law was supposed to increase the production and distribution of E85 but that is going nowhere so the gasoline producers just put the ethanol in the gasoline they can sell, E10. By early next year the quota demanded by EISA 2007 will swamp the entire gasoline pool in the U.S. and all gasoline will be E10 and the ethanol quota will continue to rise, year after year until 2022, with no place to put it. Going to get interesting.



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