E15 “witch hunt” looks for scapegoat in ethanol

July 06, 2011

E15 “witch hunt” looks for scapegoat in ethanol

(July 6, 2011)  Washington – The curtain will rise again tomorrow on more political theater surrounding domestically-produced ethanol at a House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing headed by outspoken ethanol critic Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI). The issue is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of the use of E15 ethanol blends in vehicles made in 2001 and newer after 2 years and millions of miles of testing. The witness list for the hearing is a stacked deck of ethanol detractors with the ethanol industry itself not invited to participate.

“The only thing missing from tomorrow’s hearing are pitchforks and torches. This is little more than a congressionally-sanctioned witch hunt for those with an axe to grind against farmers and ethanol producers,” said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen.

The approval of E15 for use in cars, trucks and SUVs made since 2001 was given after the most strenuous fuel testing program ever conducted by the federal government. Vehicles were driven more than 6 million miles. As members of the committee overseeing America’s space program should appreciate, that would be the equivalent of approximately 12 round trips to the moon. In all that testing, no issues related to the fuel were discovered. The biggest challenges to the testing were simply keeping older cars running regardless of the fuel, weather conditions at testing sites, and avoiding deer on the test track.

“The ethanol industry is ready to work through concerns, valid or otherwise, expressed by automakers and fuel retailers about a new fuel being approved for retail, but exercises like this hearing that only serve to sharpen rhetorical spears do nothing to help find common sense solutions,” said Dinneen. “If this is the game that some in Congress choose to play, the ethanol industry will not stand idly by and allow ethanol to be scapegoated for everything from poor automotive engineering to food prices to America’s current budget crisis. With the environmental destruction wrought by our continued addiction to oil on full display today in Montana, it leaves ordinary Americans wondering why we would be seeking to limit the potential of domestically-produced renewable alternatives. As oil prices show no signs of easing and continued unrest in oil-rich regions threaten our national security, the need for renewable alternatives has never been greater.”

Ethanol remains the only alternative to gasoline that is capable of putting any downward pressure on prices today. According to an Iowa State University/University of Wisconsin study released in May, ethanol helped keep gas prices $0.89 lower per gallon than they otherwise would have been in 2010 because of ethanol’s pricing points and its ability to replace expensive barrels of imported oil.

“The posturing at this hearing aside, the RFA is committed to finding solutions. We would welcome a dialogue with automakers about any concerns they may have. The RFA seeks to find ways to make sure consumers, automakers, and gasoline retailers are informed and comfortable using higher level ethanol blends,” Dinneen concluded.

The RFA sent a letter to committee leadership to provide the ethanol industry’s point of view as it is not represented on the panel. Specifically, the RFA believes that the hearing is asking the wrong questions about E15.  The entire letter can be read here.