On May 18th, 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency proposed their suggested renewable fuel standards for 2017. This proposal included historic increases in the level of renewable fuels the United States produces and, as expected, was met with much opposition from automakers, oil and gas enthusiasts, and other petroleum related businesses. Despite long term goals set by Congress in 2006 requiring the EPA to annually suggest increases to renewable fuels production, in the prior years of 2014-2016 these suggested increases were reduced significantly due to findings of inadequate domestic supply, which would have resulted in economic unrest. Although these and other constraints have caused the renewable fuels timeline set by Congress to be impossible, there has been much change made to fossil fuel usage in the modern world for the better. For example, nearly all of the 142 billion gallons of gasoline in the United States contains a blend of 10% ethanol, a renewable energy source.
With the proposed increases to renewable fuel standards in 2017, this blend could increase to near levels of 15%, successfully navigating the so-called “E10 blend wall”. This term is used by professionals in the industry to describe the impossibility of ethanol blended gasoline in the United States ever growing over 10% ethanol. Making the change described above indeed a historic increase . Unfortunately, change is a frightening monster to confront, and as a result oil and gas compatriots met these proposed changes with merited concerns of economic stability over such mandated changes. While these concerns are healthy, automakers specifically replied to the proposals not only with their anxieties, but vague threats. Their argument boils down to the claim that ethanol blends over 10 percent could, possibly, maybe, cause unforeseen problems in the motor engines they produce, and as a result, void warranties for already and newly purchased vehicles nationwide. Here are a few quotes from reputable automakers about ethanol blend changes:
“The EPA tests failed to conclusively show that the vehicles will not be subject to damage or increased wear”
“Ford does not support the introduction of E15 into the marketplace for the legacy fleet”
“We are not confident that our vehicles will not be damaged by E15”
“Any ethanol blend above E10, including E15, will harm emission control systems in M-B engines”
“We are not confident that our cars and trucks from model year 2001 and later will be undamaged by the use of E15”
– General Motors (GM)
Notice the strange use of double negatives in many of these comments. This odd wording is used so that these automakers are capable of putting words like ‘confident’ in their statements. Despite the truth being that they really have no idea whether e15 blends will cause the threatened damage they suggest it will. Mercedes-Benz even has the audacity to claim the increased use of renewable energy sources will harm their ’emission controls system’, leading people to believe that this introduction will hurt the environment, when in reality it is only helping. While the aforementioned concerns of economic unrest in the face of these large changes is more than welcome, threats serve to help no one other than the party making them.
On December 12th, 2016 Congress determined that no significant reductions would be necessary to the EPA’s proposed renewable fuel standards for 2017, largely due to an adequate domestic supply of ethanol being attained. Finally signaling a move towards the change Congress set out to make all the way back in 2006, when they introduced the Renewable Fuel Standard program. This news is more than welcome, however, a future where such change is met with strong opposition from long-time leaders in the oil and gas industry, such as the automakers mentioned above, may halt progress indefinitely. Here and now, at such a crucial moment in renewables history, is where we, the american public, need to make a change of our own: a change in perspective about the supposed opposition of renewable energy sources and energy supplied by fossil fuels.
For decades, the clean environment conversation has centered around the choice of either energy supplied by non-renewables such as oil and gas, or energy supplied by renewable sources, including, but certainly not limited to, ethanol. The only true answer is right in front of our eyes, and yet, we still strain to see it. American citizens must come to the conclusion that the only safe future for our children is one where renewable and fossil fuel energy sources work hand in hand, just like the increasing blend of ethanol added to american gasoline works together with the fossil fuels already harvested to provide energy for our nation’s transportation.
2017 is a historic year for policy enforcement in renewable energy, but it can be so much more. It all starts with just a little change of vision in the way we view the world’s energy provisions.
Written by: Chris Stomberg