Colin Carter, professor of agriculture at UC Davis, and Michael Marsh, CEO of Western United Dairymen’s Association, debated the merits of this broken policy with Neil Koehler, CEO of Pacific Ethanol.
Ethanol may help keep corn demand and prices high to support our farmers, but there are a number of downsides to corn ethanol. It supports a system that over-relies on corn, drives up food prices and it contains less energy per volume than gasoline.
There many much-older cars on the road. Those who enjoy vintage cars as a hobby have seen the impact of increasing ethanol since its use began: damaged fuel pumps and carburetors and gummed-up gasoline tanks.
As the federally-mandated volume of ethanol usage increases and motor fuel consumption declines, to avoid lawsuits, gasoline refiners must purchase federal renewable "credits" to make up for the ethanol they don't blend, causing higher gasoline prices even in periods of lower demand.
Most Americans don’t realize that up to 10% of what goes into the tank is ethanol distilled from corn. Congress required refiners to blend ethanol into gasoline in laws passed in 2005 and 2007, which were intended to spur the production of renewable fuels and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
For most folks, it’s the price of gasoline that matters. But for a vocal minority, it’s what’s in the gasoline that really matters. Or, to be more precise, what isn’t – specifically ethanol.
In an attempt to spur usage of biofuels, the EPA mandated that refiners blend a given amount of ethanol into gasoline. That requisite number of gallons of renewable fuels required has risen over time, and is set to rise further.
Cars and fuel pumps in the United States can easily handle gasoline with 10 percent ethanol or less, a blend known as “E10.” But if we started mixing even more ethanol in that gasoline — say, moving up to 15 percent, or E15 — it gets trickier.
As the amount of biofuel blended with U.S gasoline supplies increases, many vintage vehicles could be feeling the long-term effects. Modern gasoline blends are far different than those used in the era of classic cars and motorcycles.