Ethanol industry faces short-term challenges in 2008

By Bryan Sims | February 05, 2008
With the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007 signed into law, which increased the renewable fuels standard to 9 billion gallons in 2008, industry organizations are preparing to face any challenges that may result from the new legislation this year.

According to Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, the organization's main focus in 2008 will be to aggressively advocate higher nationwide blends of ethanol, an issue it has been vehemently addressing for quite some time before the new energy bill was enacted. So far, E10 is the blend of choice in most states, but Jennings said he would like to see that increased to at least E20 or higher by the end of this year. Minnesota is the only state to publicly support an E20 blend.

"Our top priority is absolutely to do whatever it takes to get these mid-level blends of ethanol approved," Jennings said. "Whether it can happen in 2008 or not is an open question, but at the very least, we've got to build momentum and support for mid-level blends." Other ACE priorities include the installation of more blender pumps in key parts of the country, and education and outreach to regulators, lawmakers and automakers.

In order to implement E10 or higher ethanol blends, improvements in existing fuel infrastructure must be aggressively addressed, according to Al Mannato, fuels issues manager for the American Petroleum Institute. Those improvements could provide terminals with more efficient blending and storage. "Our focus [in 2008] is going to be working with the terminal operators and owners to get them ramped up with this [ethanol] blending equipment and with the storage capacity," Mannato said. "I think the logistics are going to be critical as we move into this next phase getting the infrastructure right, getting the terminals ready, and making sure that there are enough transport trucks and rail to support the growing demand for ethanol."

Continued testing of E10 and higher blends is needed as infrastructure improvements are made, according to Mannato. "We think it's critically important that testing be done to demonstrate that an E10-plus blend would work in the consumer vehicle fleet," he said.