Friday, September 29, 2006

E85/Ethanol: What do we do now?

Bush has said that a priority of his next two years will be focusing on energy independence, pricipally through supporting the distribution of E85, a blended fuel containing 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.

Distribution of E85 has been hampered because only a small fraction of the nation's gas stations sell the mainstay E85 fuel (85% ethanol; 15% gasoline). The number has been slowly rising, but today, only 1,000 out of 170,000 gas stations stock E85, according to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.

Additionally, there is not enough E85 fuel to meet the demand even if E85 were to be widely available.

A better approach would be to blend Ethanol into gasoline, say E15 or E20. Such mixtures would still help cut emissions, could be run in virtually any automobile (not just E85-capable engines), and would generate an immediate market that would boost production of the fuel. No longer would distribution be holding back the production of E85. Such a blending would consume all of the presently available Ethanol supply.

If Mr. Bush is serious, then a national law requiring E15 or E20 blended gasoline would get the ball rolling immediately for the Ethanol industry.

Additionally, we need to make sure that the production of Ethanol does not deplete our valuable fresh water sources, such as the dwindling Ogalala aquifer that runs through the central U.S. plains. Production of E85 needs to move forward using technologies and methods that, unlike corn, do not consume tremendous amounts of fresh water.

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