Ricketts asks automakers to design cars for higher ethanol blends

By Erin Voegele | February 24, 2020

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts sent a letter to the CEOs of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., Ford Motor Co., and General Motors Co. on Feb. 11 urging the automakers to increase production of passenger vehicles designed to run on higher ethanol blends, including E20, E30, E40 and E85.

In the letter, Ricketts notes trends in the U.S. and round the world point to the emergence of policies that will incentivize more fuel-efficient vehicles and the renewable fuels on which they will run. While the U.S. EPA has wavered in implementing a robust Renewable Fuel Standard and increasing vehicle fuel efficiency standards, Rickets said trends in U.S. policy and consumers will demand greener vehicles and fuels. “For this reason, and since your companies make plans for future model year vehicles so far in advance, I urge you to strategically position your companies to design and offer passenger cars that will run on higher ethanol blends as soon as possible,” Ricketts wrote.

The letter discusses the EPA’s 2011 decision to allow E15 fuel in model year 2001 and newer vehicles and the agency’s 2019 rule to allow year-round E15 sales. Ricketts also discusses the potential for a similar E30 ruling. “As I write this, the Nebraska state government is running a year-long, U.S. EPA-approved, E30 demonstration program,” he wrote. “We expect this program will show what we have heard anecdotally: that conventional, non-flex-fuel, light-duty vehicles can safety run on E30.”

“Other states have expressed interest in repeating this demonstration program, with the ultimate goal of convincing EPA to agree that these vehicles can safety run on this higher ethanol blend,” Ricketts continued.

Ricketts also noted that consumers are becoming more aware of the advantages of green fuels and the downsides of legacy fuel types. “With the growing emphasis on climate change in public discourse, consumers are showing greater desire to purchase goods they believe emit less greenhouse gases,” he wrote. “They will do so especially when the greener good is also less expensive. Fuel containing 10 percent ethanol is generally 25 cents cheaper than standard petroleum, and fuel containing E15 percent ethanol is approximately 2 to 5 cents less expensive than E10. The greater the amount of ethanol, the lower the cost of fuel is for the consumer.”

“If leading U.S. automobile companies take the bold action to design cars to run on higher ethanol blends, it will bolster the already existing momentum for domestically produced renewable fuels, including ethanol,” Ricketts wrote. “Moreover, the increased demand for these fuels will significantly strengthen the U.S. agriculture sector and the jobs and economies of thousands of rural communities they support. In turn, this will strengthen the U.S. economy. U.S. consumers who accrue the financial benefits of affordable fuels will then enjoy greater financial freedom to purchase your vehicles.”

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from Ricketts website.