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Pushing E-15

Congressional leaders and farmers alike are in favor of a request now before the Environmental Protection Agency to waive the E-10 limit on fuels sold at U.S. gas pumps. Should the waiver be allowed, the amount of ethanol permitted to be blended ...

Congressional leaders and farmers alike are in favor of a request now before the Environmental Protection Agency to waive the E-10 limit on fuels sold at U.S. gas pumps. Should the waiver be allowed, the amount of ethanol permitted to be blended with petroleum gasoline would increase from 10 percent to 15 percent.

The waiver was proposed by Growth Energy, a consortium that champions the use of renewable fuels. Among its stated reasons for the increase to E-15, Growth Energy claims benefits to the U.S. economy, added job growth and a reduction of U.S. dependency on imported oil.

Domestic vs. foreign

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., a member of the House agriculture committee, recently wrote a letter supporting E-15 to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. He advocates a reduced dependence on imported petroleum.

"Raising the blend cap from E-10 to E-15 could result in as much as an additional 7 billion gallons of gasoline that would not need to be imported annually, which is equal to about 70 percent of the oil that is imported annually from Saudi Arabia," he says.

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Casey Hoverson, a grain farmer in Manvel, N.D., agrees.

"I think it's an excellent idea," he says. "Any time we can start using more of own resources, it's a better deal, I think, instead of going to foreign oil."

Gasoline retailer Monica Musich, who owns six Valley Dairy stations in Grand Forks, N.D., also sees the increased ethanol level as a way to support agriculture.

"If they can get up to E-15, I would rather support our farmers," she says. "The less dependent we can get on foreign oil, for me, the better."

Grain farmer Jay Elkin of Taylor, N.D., also agrees with the boost.

"I'm already burning a 10 percent blend, and I enjoy that," he says. "After all, I'm involved in agriculture as well, and anything I can do to support my own industry, I'll do.

Elkin goes on to say he thinks the EPA should not be enforcing a cap at all.

"I hate to see anything mandated. I think the industry should be able to address that situation all in its own right," he says. "It's all about a free-enterprise system, being able to make a profit, and if they can make a profit by bumping it, then I'm all for it."

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E-15 performance

Several recent studies, including a University of Minnesota study regarding E-15 performance in cars and an Oak Ridge National Laboratory study on both emissions and performance of E-15, assert that the higher blend will not impact significantly either engine performance or tailpipe emissions.

Pomeroy thinks these reports should pave the way for making E-15 available to U.S. consumers.

"These studies underscore that taking this step of allowing E-15 blends is a safe and effective way of quickly reducing our country's oil dependence and lowering fuel prices for American families," he says.

"I'm a supporter of ethanol, so I think that should be great and if they've tested it and everything," retailer Musich says. "And I believe it probably works fine."

The University of North Dakota's Energy and Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks recently partnered with the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research and the American Coalition for Ethanol to study the performance of multiple cars using blends ranging from E-10 to E-85. They found exhaust emissions levels for all vehicles at all blend levels were within the applicable Clean Air Act standards.

But even if E-15 were not a perfect equal to fossil fuel, Hoverson thinks it still is a worthwhile fuel.

"I'd even be alright with a little decrease if we're using our own resources," he says. "Put a value on using our own stuff, instead of foreign oil, because then the money stays in our economy."

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Industry and jobs

A study conducted by North Dakota State University in Fargo claims that a green light for E-15 would spur the creation of 136,000 jobs and fuel the construction of 6 billion gallons of added production capacity. It also asserts that selling E-15 at the pump could generate demand for nearly 3.5 billion gallons of production capability currently idled or under construction. This amounts to an added $24.4 billion being injected into an anemic U.S. economy.

"Increasing the blend rate will generate additional economic activity and help bolster the ethanol industry in a difficult economic period," says David Morgan, president of Syngenta Seeds in Golden Valley, Minn. He says it also will send "important signals" to technology companies like Syngenta to continue expansion of research and development in first, second and third generation biofuels.

The EPA has extended the initial 30-day public comment period on Growth Energy's request for waiver an additional 60 days, to July 20.

Information: www.growthenergy.org .

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