Ethanol keeps gasoline prices down

Source: By Fred Yoder, Columbus Post Dispatch • Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2016

When the original renewable fuel standard was passed in 2005, gasoline manufacturers were under heavy pressure to do something about the contamination of thousands of groundwater sources from using methyl tertiary butyl ether as the oxygenate to conform with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations for cleaner burning fuel.

The liability exposure was enormous, so a deal was cut by Big Oil to accept using ethanol as the oxygenate of choice if the liability issues would go away.

Ethanol always has been primarily viewed as a fuel additive, or as an oxygenate and octane booster, although with flex-fuel vehicles one can use up to 85 percent ethanol as the fuel.

We can debate whether ethanol consumes more energy to manufacture than it produces because different people use different criteria. I happen to think the science is solid. But in any case, burning ethanol with gasoline leaves our air in better shape than without it, if you simply consider its ability to enrich the oxygen content in our gasoline.

As far as being able to buy gasoline without ethanol, it could be available if we were willing to pay a higher price. But most people are not willing to pay a premium for pure gasoline because the oxygenate must come from much more expensive aromatics derived from oil.

Removing the renewable-fuel-standard mandate would make gasoline prices go up by giving oil companies the option to use more expensive petroleum-derived oxygenates, which they would create from their own feedstock. Also, by having 130-plus ethanol plants scattered across the Midwest producing home-grown biofuel makes great sense for our country’s energy security.

Fred Yoder. Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, Plain City