We’ve hit the ethanol blending wall, government reports

As forecast by your bloggers for the past year, it looked likely that the mandated production of ethanol in the US would exceed consumption sometime this winter.  According to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Agency, it appears that this situation, known as “the blending wall” actually occurred this past summer!  The report states:

“Nearly all fuel ethanol currently used in the United States is consumed as a blend with gasoline in volumes containing up to 10% ethanol (E10), which until late 2010 was the legal limit for ethanol blends sold for use in vehicles designed to run on gasoline. As fuel ethanol use has grown, the market for E10 blending has neared the saturation point, also known as the ethanol blend wall. In October 2010 and January 2011, EPA issued waivers allowing ethanol blends of up to 15% (E15) in vehicles manufactured after 2000. However, near-term barriers to the marketing of E15 may slow the transition to higher blends due to concerns over potential misfueling, associated liabilities, and other issues.”

Not only are there many reasons why E15 will not appear at the pumps in the foreseeable future, but E85, once expected to be in wide use by now, has failed also to gain acceptance by consumers. Even communities once expecting to fuel their own vehicles with this fuel, consisting of 85% ethanol, are having second thoughts. The Denver Post recently reported “The city of Fort Collins is considering eliminating the use of corn-based ethanol fuel in its fleet vehicles because of concerns over environmental damage. City Council members said Tuesday they would support gradually doing away with vehicles that use the fuel because of the impact on water and soil degradation.”

Such news can only increase pressure on the EPA to modify or repeal the current production mandates that have resulted in a surplus of ethanol in our country. Hopefully, this will lead to greater availability of ethanol-free gasoline, the only viable, FAA-approved unleaded aviation fuel.

The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft: Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., an expert on autogas and ethanol, and Kent Misegades, Cary, N.C., an aerospace engineer, aviation sales rep for U-Fuel, and president of EAA1114.

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