More moonshine for your gas tank

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it has approved of 24 companies to offer a fuelblend that is 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline (E15). Minnesota requires all gas stations in the state to offer 10 percent ethanol (E10), but for now, it will not do the same for E15. The EPA is not planning a national mandate for E15.

The complications for retailers having to provide multiple gasoline blends, E10, E15, even E85, would be enormous. In some cases, lack of land will prevent adding another storage tank.  Refiners have indicated that additional refinery blends will be needed to allow varying quantities of ethanol to be added at local terminals. Raising the ethanol blend to 15 percent can increase gasoline’s vapor pressure, risking vapor lock in warm and high altitude areas.

Widespread use of E15 would require a few million more corn acres taken from conservation lands, wheat or soybeans. This will increase the upward pressure on world food prices.

When you include all the fossil fuels needed to plant, grow, harvest and dry the corn, along with operating the ethanol plant, there is no net saving in fossil fuel consumption or green house gas emissions from more corn ethanol.

In addition, a recent study, led by University of Minnesota professor Sangwon Suh, showed that to produce each gallon of corn ethanol in the U.S. requires an average of 142 gallons of fresh water. In high irrigation states like Kansas and Nebraska, the average rises to 500 water gallons. The additional fertilizer for more corn also sends phosphorous and nitrogen into the Mississippi River, encouraging algae growth, fostering those dead zones in the Delta and the Gulf of Mexico.

The evidence that this push for an E15 ethanol blend is more about political science than real science is compelling.