Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted November 22, 2013
Three new papers released by Iowa State University’s Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) try to portray E85 fuel as both a solution to the ethanol “blend wall” created by the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) mandates and as a reason to set ethanol volume mandates beyond what can safely be consumed as conventional E10 gasoline. Unfortunately, the papers contain deficiencies, omit key facts, rely too much on hoped-for outcomes and confuse the role of consumers and market signals.
Posted November 18, 2013
More on EPA’s proposed levels for 2014 ethanol usage that were unveiled last week. While the agency rightly acknowledged the existence of the refining “blend wall” by proposing a lowering of how much ethanol must be blended into the U.S. fuel supply under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), it doesn’t go far enough. The blend wall still looms, and so does EPA’s insistence on requiring millions of gallons of phantom cellulosic biofuels.
We covered the blend wall issue when EPA released its proposal last week. Breaking through the blend wall, requiring refiners to put more ethanol into the fuel supply than is safe for millions of vehicles on the road today, could leave consumers stuck with repair bills and could harm the broader economy, according to a study by NERA Economic Consulting.
Let’s look at cellulosic. We refer to it as the “phantom fuel” because over the past few years EPA has required refiners to blend millions of gallons of it into the fuel supply when none was commercially available (2010 and 2011), or when very little was available (2012) – and then forced refiners to purchase credits from the government because they didn't use a non-existent fuel. This year looks to be similar. EPA’s 2013 mandate requires 6 million “ethanol equivalent” gallons, but to date only about 359,000 gallons have been produced.
Posted November 18, 2013
Big Ethanol Finally Loses
Wall Street Journal (editorial): It's not often that the ethanol lobby suffers a policy setback in Washington, but it got its head handed to it Friday. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that for the first time it is lowering the federal mandate that dictates how much ethanol must be blended into the nation's gasoline. It's about time. It's been about time from the moment the ethanol mandate came to life in the 1970s.
The 16% reduction is a modest pullback, which EPA says will hold ethanol blends in gasoline at the standard 10% (E10). But we hope this is a precedent-setting victory. After 35 years of exaggerations about the benefits of renewable fuels, the industry has lost credibility.
Posted November 15, 2013
Before taking a look at EPA’s proposals for 2014 ethanol use announced Friday, first consider a number that must guide the discussion of how much ethanol America’s refiners should be required to blend into the U.S. fuel supply: 132.65 billion gallons. That’s what the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), projects for 2014 gasoline demand.
Do the simple math. Using the government projection, the U.S. supply of conventional E10 fuel (up to 10 percent ethanol), for which the vast majority of cars and trucks on the road today were designed, would require 13.265 billion gallons of ethanol. If the ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) required more, then you’re running into the ethanol “blend wall” – that is, to satisfy the RFS, refiners would have to blend fuel with higher ethanol content than millions of vehicles are designed to use.
Posted November 14, 2013
Congratulations America. You’re (Almost) Energy Independent
Politico Magazine (Daniel Yergin): For four decades, whenever the American political debate turned to energy, the discussion was all about shortage and scarcity, a reality that haunted the United States ever since the global oil crises of the 1970s.
That conversation is over.
And now the unconventional energy revolution—newly accessible supplies of shale gas and oil—is creating a new discourse on energy that is changing politics and policies. All of this represents what Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz calls a “new mentality” about America’s energy position, with a new political language to match.
Posted November 13, 2013
Bloomberg: U.S. crude oil production exceeded imports in October for the first month since February 1995, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.
Output averaged 7.74 million barrels a day, the Energy Department’s statistical unit said in its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook. Crude oil net imports were 7.57 million, down from 7.92 million the previous month.
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have unlocked supplies in shale formations in North Dakota, Texas and other states. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, has dropped to below $95 from above $110 in September as domestic output reached a 24-year high.
Posted November 12, 2013
Ethanol Investigation: The Dirty Cost of the Green Power Push
Associated Press: CORYDON, Iowa — The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America's push for green energy: The brown gashes where rain has washed away the soil. The polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply.
Even the cemetery that disappeared like an apparition into a cornfield.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. And when President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country "stronger, cleaner and more secure."
But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.
Posted November 11, 2013
The cost of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) hurts American businesses and consumers as ethanol production drives up food prices, higher-ethanol blend fuels get less mileage than conventional gasoline and higher blends can damage to engines both large and small.
The Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) and others associated with classic cars are especially concerned with the impact on engines that weren’t designed for fuels containing ethanol – much less higher-ethanol blends – at a time when ethanol-free fuel is getting harder to find because the RFS-driven ethanol “blend wall” is forcing E0 gasoline out of the market, reducing choice for consumers. More on ethanol and the RFS from their perspective.
Posted November 8, 2013
Fred Siegel: Fracking, Poverty and the New Liberal Gentry
Wall Street Journal: The transformation of American liberalism over the past half-century is nowhere more apparent than in the disputes now roiling a relatively obscure section of upstate New York. In 1965, as part of his "war on poverty," President Lyndon Johnson created the Appalachian Regional Commission. Among the areas to be served by the commission were the Southern Tier counties of New York state, including Broome, Tioga and Chemung. The commission's central aim was to "Increase job opportunities and per capita income in Appalachia to reach parity with the nation."
Like so many Great Society antipoverty programs, the effort largely failed. The Southern Tier counties remain much as they appeared in the 1960s, pocked by deserted farms and abandoned businesses, largely untouched by the prosperity that blessed much of America over the past five decades.
Beginning about a dozen years ago, remarkable improvements in natural-gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, seemed to promise a way out of poverty. The massive Marcellus Shale Formation under New York and Pennsylvania has proved to be "the most lucrative natural gas play in the U.S.," Business Week recently noted, because the shale produces high-quality gas and is easily shipped to New York and Philadelphia.
In Pennsylvania, a state long familiar with carbon production through oil drilling and coal mining, Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell backed fracking during his tenure from 2003-11, and the state has experienced a boom in jobs and income. Between 2007 and 2011, in Pennsylvania counties with more than 200 fracking wells, per capita income rose 19%, compared with an 8% increase in counties with no wells, as petroleum analyst Gregg Laskoski wrote for U.S. News & World Report in August.
Read more: http://on.wsj.com/1hrdrUJ
Posted November 8, 2013
The U.S. Department of Energy’s flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) fleet apparently isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A recent inspector general’s report found that DOE has been fueling its FFVs with regular gasoline instead of E85, eliminating many supposed environmental or cost benefits of having a fleet of cars that can use fuel containing up to 83 percent ethanol.
Two of DOE’s sites leased 854 FFVs at an additional cost of $700,000 over a comparable conventional fleet. In 2011, the managers of the cars were granted waivers for more than 75 percent of the vehicles so they could be filled with conventional fuel, “a practice that provided little or no environmental or economic benefit,” the IG said.
Here’s the significance in the ongoing debate over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its mandates for ever-increasing ethanol use: Although the ethanol lobby keeps touting the benefits of FFVs and E85, the situation with DOE’s FFV fleet illustrates the fact that even the government, which was mandated to use the product, didn’t want to use it. This is consistent with the experience of the general public, which hasn’t accepted the use of E85 in their FFVs.