Florida and Maine pass symbolic anti-ethanol laws

In moves that are largely symbolic, Florida and Maine recently passed laws aimed at providing more ethanol-free options at the pump.

As described in the marine publication Trade Only, “It’s one more mandate off the books,” state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, who has been trying to achieve the repeal since he took office in 2010, told Northwest Florida Daily News. Service stations can continue to sell gas containing ethanol if they wish, Gaetz added.

Maine legislators voted to ban the use of corn-based ethanol altogether, but as the Bangor Daily News reported,  “The original bill banned ethanol in fuel on the condition that two other New England states do the same. The Senate amended the bill so that the ethanol prohibition will take effect only if 10 other states with a collective population of at least 30 million ban it.”

Since neither states banned ethanol’s use in at least one grade of fuel, the moves are largely symbolic since the federal ethanol production mandates in the EISA 2007 Act remain in effect.

Worse yet, the EPA has not addressed the glut of ethanol that is already driving the cost of fuel at the pump ever higher.  The reason for this is related to speculation on the price of RINs (Renewable Information Numbers), the means for the EPA to verify that gasoline companies fulfill ethanol mandates.  As this article from Norwegian oil producer StatOil describes, “U.S. drivers face a $13 billion increase in the cost of gasoline this year as the price of federally-mandated ethanol credits has risen 10-fold for oil refiners…”

Increasingly some politicians and even some in the oil industry are calling for a complete repeal of the ethanol mandates, including Congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, as reported in April in Bloomberg News.

Comments

  1. Jim Barnett says:

    What is WRONG with ethanal? It can be made from corn and drive up the cost of bourban and beef, From sugar and slim us obese ones down and a little spike in the cost of rum. From ag waist like corn stalks and grass clipping even from garbage. I burns cleaner than petrolium and when compared to AVGas is a lot cheeper. The research is done and technology is available. WHY are we so resistent to change? My car runs fine with 87 octane 10% ethanale, My van is going strong after 193,000 miles on the stuff.

    Shure there are other alturnatives like hydrogen, LPG and Desiel from French Fry greese. But no matter which way you go, teriethal lead is on it’s death bed and what ever takes it’s place will require some engine modification.

    • Jim,

      First, lead in fuel and ethanol (alcohol) in fuel are two separate issues.

      Yes, lead will go away as an alternative higher octane fuel becomes available. Right now 100 LL is it. And that has nothing to do with the issue of ethanol.

      But regarding ethanol – the problem is that we have a huge fleet of existing general aviation piston aircraft that cannot tolerate ethanol, for many reasons.

      For instance the ethanol attracts water and the combination is highly corrosive to many internal parts, especially for carburetor and fuel system parts.

      In addition the ethanol is incompatible with many plastic or rubber parts and sealants historically used in aircraft.

      It would be incredibly expensive to convert tens of thousands of aircraft, of many different makes and models and engines, to be able to use fuel with ethanol.

      However using fuel without ethanol would be far simpler and more economical when the planes already run best on fuel without the added ethanol, which is easily available at most refineries and fuel depots.

      We are stuck with 100 LL at most airports these days because of the cost of installing separate tanks and pumps with unblended (non ethanol) fuel, and because of the federal mandates, as well as the mandates of many states.

      We first need to get rid of the mandates. Then the suppliers will be able to provide the unblended 91 octane fuel that is usable by so many light aircraft. And then entrepreneurs can decide if it is worth the investment to install the additional tanks and pumps, and haul the fuel to the airports.

      I buy unblended 91 octane autogas at an airport near me for use in my vintage Cessna 172. It works great, just required some paperwork for my plane, and is far less expensive than 100 LL. It also doesn’t foul the plugs and cause other problems because of the lead in 100 LL. Thank goodness for an airport manager who cared enough to put in a tank and pump.

      SO – I am glad Maine and other states are starting to move in the right direction. We need more states, and the feds, to do so too.

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