Ethanol’s Realistic Role

Ethanol Producer Magazine's publisher previews the August issue, which includes stories about the growth of E15, a profile on High-Octane Award winner Doug Durante, the role of ethanol and EVs, and the need to retool biogenic emissions policy.
By Tom Bryan | August 17, 2020

Few regulatory actions over the past decade have been as momentous—and overdue—as the Trump administration’s 2019 decision to allow E15 to be sold year-round. And while the promise of ubiquitous E15 use is an enticing vision, achieving the omnipresence of E10 will be a long time coming. The higher blend’s market growth is on a nice, gradual ascent—buttressed by independent retailer support—but its adoption will be hard to rush. 

In “Climbing Through Chaos,” Lisa Gibson reports that, since E15 received its Reid vapor pressure waiver last year, more retailers and terminals have adopted the blend. In fact, sales of E15 are up 46 percent post-waiver, with 400 new retail locations and 40 terminals getting set up to handle the blend in the past year. So while fuel use is down, E15’s lower price—and its year-round presence—is spurring growth. Branded retailers are, of course, still resisting, but USDA grant money for higher blend infrastructure has, in the words of one market observer, “kept the conversation going” with retailers willing to listen.

Ethanol’s market expansion will require continuous technical work and persistent advocacy. The subject of “Clean Calling” is no stranger to either. With the 2020 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo being carried out as a virtual event this year—the conference will take place online in mid-September—we decided to spotlight the distinguished career of Doug Durante, winner of this year’s High-Octane Award. It was a pleasure to speak with Durante and Award of Excellence winner Doug Tiffany, who we'll feature in the October issue.  

Coincidentally, our High-Octane Award winner shows up in another August feature, “Reality Check,” which explores a new issue brief by Durante’s organization, the Clean Fuels Development Coalition. In that story, Matt Thompson reports that the CFDC makes a compelling case for increased ethanol use amidst seemingly blind support for electric vehicles (EVs). Durante and others are essentially calling for a more honest examination of the role EVs can and should play in decarbonization.

Indeed, the emissions reductions necessary to set decarbonization in motion is not only a matter of transforming energy production and use, but altering how we understand and account for biogenic CO2. As Luke Geiver reports in “Biogenic Emissions: Credit Where It’s Due,” American farmers and biofuels producers alike would experience a significant boost—at a time when they really need it—if biogenic CO2 emissions were finally deemed de minimis, or neutral. Changing the way those emissions are regulated would create a glidepath for farmers to participate in market-based climate change solutions and reinvigorate the U.S. bioeconomy. Jumpstarting any sector starting in “bio” sure sounds nice right now. 

Enjoy the reading. See you at the virtual FEW next month.

Author: Tom Bryan
BBI International