Ethanol under fire, on fire

Ethanol producers have found themselves under more pressure than ever in recent months, with numerous efforts afoot to grant waivers or even repeal the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) production mandates encompassed in the EISA 2007 Act that have resulted in the nearly complete adulteration of our nation’s fuel supply in recent years. The latest drought in corn-producing states is contributing to the rise in gas prices at the pump and a war of words between leaders of corn-producing states and those where its use as feed for livestock is pinching profits and adding more woes onto the already fragile budgets of many American households.

Not only are ethanol producers under fire for rising costs of fuel and food, but now the industry is dealing with the consequences of the latest explosion and fire of a railcar transporting ethanol through downtown Columbus, Ohio, on July 11. Since this highly-corrosive substance may not be pumped through fuel pipelines, it must be trucked, shipped by rail or barge. Earlier this month, the Governor of Massachusetts, Patrick Duval, signed a transportation bill that ends the shipment of ethanol through a number of cities in his state.

Some states are working to increase the availability of ethanol-free fuel, which is good news for pilots. In Florida, where a mandatory E10 ruling for highway vehicles that took effect in early 2011 has had a disastrous impact on recreational boating, leading members of the state’s legislature are working to repeal this onerous law. State Representative Matt Gaetz of Ft. Walton Beach posted this encouraging news in his newsletter from March 6 of this year:

More Consumer Choice for Gasoline – A Path to End the Ethanol Mandate

Florida’s burdensome ethanol mandate became law in 2008. This year, I have strongly advocated for its repeal. The best energy policy comes from empowering consumers to make their own choices about their own gasoline. Our “repeal bill” successfully passed the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee in the Florida House of Representatives, but, despite the outstanding and skilled work of Sen. Greg Evers, the bill stalled in the Senate.

Fortunately, we were able to enhance consumer choice by amending ethanol choice provisions onto other legislation. Due to the Gaetz/Evers Amendment, now no retail gas station in Florida can ever be punished for selling non-ethanol gasoline. Additionally, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is now required to maintain a website for consumers displaying where they can buy non-ethanol gasoline.

We will continue our efforts for a free market and even more consumer choice. The end of government regulation in our gas tanks remains in sight.

As unfortunate as droughts, fires and higher food prices are, they have forced our nation to examine closer the issue of ethanol mandates and their impact on our economy.  This is an important step towards their repeal, with positive consequences on the cost and availability of lead-free, ethanol-free mogas, a fuel that can power over 80% of the entire piston engine aircraft fleet today, and possibly 100% in the future.

 

The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft: Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., a pilot, homebuilder and 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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