Americans worried about more ethanol in fuel — poll

Source: Marc Heller, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 7, 2016

Petroleum advocates say voters are on their side in fighting increased ethanol in fuel blends.

The American Petroleum Institute, representing oil and gas companies, touted the results of a new poll, which showed more than three-quarters of respondents were concerned about the potential effect of high-ethanol fuels, including damage to some engines and higher gas prices.

The poll, commissioned by API and conducted by Harris Interactive Inc., showed 77 percent of respondents were concerned that engine makers might not offer warranties in case of damage from fuel blends with more than 10 percent ethanol.

Harris conducted the poll of 1,013 registered voters by phone between March 22-29. The survey had a 3 percentage point margin of error.

A vast majority of Americans are “deeply concerned” about the effects of more ethanol in the fuel supply, said Frank Macchiarola, API downstream director, in a conference call with reporters today.

“The public gets it,” Macchiarola said.

Similar majorities registered concern that diverting more corn to energy, rather than to food, could cause global food prices to climb, he said.

The API poll contrasts with a Morning Consult poll commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association. It showed 57 percent of respondents supporting the renewable fuel standard. Pollsters conducted that survey April 1-3.

“It’s no surprise that API, an organization which has made its top priority to get rid of the RFS, is trotting out a phony faux poll to support its antediluvian narrative about biofuels,” said RFA CEO Bob Dinneen in a statement. “This push poll, which uses opinionated statements to elicit a negative response to biofuels, is not reflective of reality.”

In addition, pro-ethanol group Growth Energy has said the mandate has helped net a farm income increase of 42 percent since the RFS took effect in 2007 and that the ethanol industry supported hundreds of thousands of jobs that couldn’t be outsourced.

The API poll comes as U.S. EPA is weighing blend levels under the RFS for 2017. Agency leaders have told Congress that the decision will come on time, this spring, in contrast to the much-delayed announcement last year that covered three years at once, retroactively.

Macchiarola said API prefers a blend level of no more than 9.7 percent ethanol and that the organization continues to push for repeal or a major revamp of the RFS.

“The RFS is a broken and outdated policy,” Macchiarola said.