OPINION: Are we almost there?

By Ron Lamberty | May 02, 2019

Ah, the summer driving season.

Our minds drift back to a time when we (barely) helped our parents load up the Vista Cruiser, (including all the stuff tied to the roof rack), slid a cooler filled with snacks and ice-cold sodas in the “way back” and Dad ordered everyone to go to the bathroom before they got in the car. Everyone said they already went, but none of us did, and we loaded in the car and were on the road within a few minutes of the projected start time on Dad’s minute-by-minute itinerary.

Station wagons didn’t have entertainment consoles back in the day, so we passed the time singing songs, playing “I Spy” and that billboard alphabet game, or did puzzles in one of the books Mom brought along. And only the newest, top-of-the-line cars had air conditioning back then, so Dad joked about having “475 AC” in the wagon—four windows and 75 miles an hour. Hilarious! The time flew by, we all got nice, long naps, and before we knew it, we reached our destination, and memories were made.

Except it never really went like that. We had to unpack and repack because everyone had twice as much stuff as they needed, and there was always something wrong with the roof rack or the storage thing-a-ma-bob that went up there. Even if it fit and stayed attached, there was a huge rainstorm and we discovered the thing leaked on top, but the bottom was watertight, creating a kind of clothing and accessories stew in the hot sun. The ice in the cooler melted instantly, soaking the sandwiches and crackers, and we tried to drink warm cans of Mr. Pepper, Hillside Dew, or Cola. We couldn’t sing or play games because we couldn’t hear each other with the windows down, and the puzzle books were either made for your 5-year-old little brother, or you had to know some French to answer some of the clues. Your sweaty back stuck to the vinyl seats, and Dad blew a gasket when kids repeatedly had to go to the bathroom or whined and asked, “Are we almost theeeere?”

It’s been kind of the same with E15.

We went after E15 instead of E20, because the UL specs for nearly every piece of fueling equipment said they were good with “up to 15 percent alcohol.” Station owners would love to put the stuff in, because it would give them a higher-octane fuel to sell at a lower price, which is what their customers really want. EPA will proudly announce each year’s RFS volumes along with reports of improved air quality, automakers won’t mind because they also test using higher ethanol blends, and oil companies will quickly make adjustments to sell E15, because it makes RFS compliance a snap.

It never really went like that, but we are almost there. After years of whining and/or misinformation from oil companies, automakers, congress, weed-whacker engine makers, and even the friggin’ U.S. EPA, we are almost there. Widespread E15 availability is just down the road a ways, and hopefully, it will be just like those road trips of our youth. After all those do-overs, unscheduled stops, breakdowns, detours, unfriendly and uncooperative fellow travelers, and bouts of road rage, when we reached our destination, we had a blast. It was awesome! Yeah, the trip was a nightmare, but even that had its benefits. It makes for great storytelling, and in retrospect, it wasn’t so bad. Once we get there, hopefully we’ll realize why we had to take that long journey, station owners and drivers will get better fuel for less money, and over time, we’ll all try to remember what all the fighting was about.

Author: Ron Lamberty

American Coalition for Ethanol