U.S. Department of Energy data indicate that the average inclusion rate of ethanol in gasoline in the state of Illinois is 10.1%. That means that we have successfully breached the 10% blend wall, but just barely. The national ethanol blend rate is now at 9.91%. This means that nearly every gallon of regular unleaded gasoline sold in the country contains a 10% blend of ethanol (E10). That’s important to recognize. In essence, it means that for more Illinois-grown corn to find its way into gas tanks, we need to find more ways to pump higher ethanol blends like E15 and flex fuels (previously known as E85).
One way to achieve this goal would be for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to change the way they plan to treat E15 (a 15% blend of ethanol) in their proposed rules. In fact, we here at IL Corn think something needs to be done urgently, and that’s why Illinois Corn Growers Association President Justin Durdan presented oral testimony at an EPA hearing in Chicago recently.
Durdan told the EPA officials that their proposed rule stops short of allowing E15 to be considered a flex fuel, and that is problematic. If E15 cannot be designated as flex-fuel through the rule, Durdan said, the results will be less demand for E15 blends; curtailed investment in infrastructure by petroleum marketers and huge stranded investments made through USDA’s Biofuels Infrastructure Program, the ethanol industry’s Prime the Pump Program, and most importantly investments made by the petroleum marketers themselves as they changed their stations and dispensers to be able to offer E15 throughout the year; and also this rule being seen by the general public as another federal agency move that lacks common sense and adds unnecessary and expensive burdens to industry and the general public.
Unfortunately, driving demand for corn through the ethanol markets isn’t just a quick trip around the block, so to speak. It will take a concerted effort of corn farmers, the ethanol industry, and the EPA to remove arbitrary regulatory-based barriers to market access.