Op-Ed: We Need a Disruption to Grow

Source: By David VanderGriend, Ethanol Producer Magazine • Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2017

There are many challenges and barriers that prohibit ethanol from freely expanding beyond E10. If these challenges are not resolved, and the barriers knocked down, our industry’s growth curve looks flat at best. Furthermore, if gasoline consumption continues its downward trend without additional blending beyond E10, future demand for ethanol is not favorable. We must take bold steps to remove these unnecessary and unreasonable barriers in order to grow.

At this year’s International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo we will participate in a conversation addressing these challenges. We invite you to attend the Game Changers panel at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 20, in Track 4. Urban Air Initiative will be part of a group with diverse perspectives on what can be done to disrupt the establishment in order to access higher blends. These experts will address how we can work with the auto and fuel industries, the U.S. EPA, as well as issues around infrastructure, regulation, policy and public perception.

While the ethanol industry faces uncertainty under this new administration, ethanol’s value is undisputable. One of the panelists understands that better than anyone. Professional drift racer and millennial consumer Alec Hohnadell has suffered the dire health effects of gasoline aromatics first hand.

Hohnadell runs E98 in his car on the Formula Drift Circuit, and not just because it’s a great race fuel that boosts his horsepower. He also chooses ethanol because it’s a healthier option, greatly reducing the toxic chemicals in the fuel he handles and what he breathes from the tailpipe. Hohnadell was diagnosed with aromatics poisoning after swimming in the Gulf of Mexico during his youth. Although it appeared to be cleaned up, toxins from the massive crude oil spill in 2010 lurked in the water. Many of the toxins that made Alec sick are the same ones found in our gasoline.

After the diagnosis, Alec spent more than a year in intense treatment to clear his system from these chemicals. Once he was healthy, he got on the race track and started competing. But he also wanted to start educating his fans that they too can make a healthier choice with ethanol. You will be able to see his car and talk to Alec at our booth in the expo hall.

While a shift in consumer demand is critical, it’s not all we need to get access to higher ethanol blends. Faulty data and regulations greatly limit ethanol’s path forward.

We are all keenly aware of major industry challenges such as the need for the Reid vapor pressure waiver to be extended to higher blends. But did you know that last year, through a Freedom of Information Act request, UAI learned that fuel experts from major oil companies were responsible for supplying match blended test fuels that were used in flawed key EPA fuel studies?

Not surprisingly, the results of these fuel tests incorrectly pointed to ethanol as the culprit behind rising emissions rather than aromatics. And if that isn’t enough to make you cringe, the EPA relies on these slanted test results when making policy decisions that discourage higher ethanol blends, such as in the MOVES 2014 model.

Another panelist will discuss the position that the EPA has been incorrectly interpreting the law, effectively requiring the ethanol industry to prove the fuel is good. Instead, UAI contends EPA bears the burden to prove the opposite. This notion would eliminate years of unnecessary studies like what we went through with E15 and could open the door to higher blends of ethanol today. In addition, autos could certify with E30 and the vehicle would pass for all levels below.

We hope to have a spirited conversation at FEW that highlights out-of-the box thinking to move past unnecessary prohibitive regulations and open the market to more ethanol. Joining Hohnadell on the panel is former Chrysler executive, Reg Modlin, Future Fuels Strategies’ Tammy Klein and Adam Gustafson, attorney with Boyden Gray & Associates. We hope you will join us for this insightful and educational conversation at FEW.

David VanderGriend, President, Urban Air Initiative, CEO, ICM Inc.