By Rachel Gantz, Renewable Fuels Association Communications Director
If 2019 is anything like 2018, we should expect the unexpected. I won’t pretend to be Nostradamus, making wild predictions about the future, but I guarantee that prognosticators will have egg on their faces at the end of this new year. In other words, no one knows what will happen.
With that caveat though, there are a few easy predictions for 2019: There will be more presidential tweets, the stock market will remain volatile, and ethanol opponents will continue to obfuscate, mislead, and downright lie, all in an effort to prevent consumers from knowing the truth. We’ve seen this playbook before and the Renewable Fuels Association will continue to fight back against our critics.
Here’s the truth: Ethanol is providing a cleaner, domestically produced, higher-octane fuel, while offering greater consumer choice at the pump. Let’s break it down.
- Ethanol is providing greater consumer choice. There are more than 24 million vehicles on U.S. roads today than are flex fuel vehicles, capable of running on fuel blends containing up to 85 percent ethanol (E85), and there are approximately 4,500 retail stations throughout the country that offer E85 or other ethanol flex fuel blends. Likewise, more than nine out of 10 cars on the road today are approved to use 15 percent ethanol (E15), sold at more than 1,500 stations today in 30 states. E15 will be found at even more retail stations once the fuel can be sold year-round in much of the country.
- Ethanol boosts energy security by helping to import less petroleum. In 2018, 199 biorefineries produced 16.1 billion gallons of ethanol. U.S. dependence on imported crude oil and petroleum products fell to just 14% last year, thanks in large part to growth in the use of ethanol and other biofuels.
- Ethanol helps lower fuel prices. Because ethanol is priced below gasoline and far below competing octane sources, the fuel has led to lower gas prices for consumers. One recent study found ethanol reduces spending on gasoline by $142 per American household.
- Ethanol significantly benefits local economies. The U.S. ethanol industry provided 365,491 jobs in 2018 and generates more than $40 billion in gross domestic product every year. Growing exports of ethanol and co-products are also supporting jobs and income levels in the domestic economy. The ethanol industry plays a strategic role in the success of our American agricultural economy.
- Ethanol helps clean the air. Over the past four decades, ethanol has served as an affordable and effective tool for reducing harmful emissions from the transportation sector. By displacing hydrocarbon substances like aromatics in gasoline, ethanol helps reduce emissions of air toxics, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and exhaust hydrocarbons. These pollutants cause smog and ground-level ozone and adversely affect human health. Reducing these emissions means fewer cases of respiratory illness and asthma, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and even fewer premature deaths.
- Ethanol provides greater octane. The message from automobile manufacturers could not be clearer: they want—and need—more octane. As automakers introduce more efficient engine technologies, the demand for higher-octane fuels continues to grow. With a blending octane rating of 114, ethanol is the cleanest and most affordable source of octane on the planet. Already, E15 offers an octane rating of 88, giving consumers an added boost at a lower cost. Moreover, a future high-octane fuel like E20-E40 could deliver the same—or better—fuel economy as regular gasoline when paired with an optimized engine, but with less energy expended per mile and fewer emissions.
We fully expect ethanol opponents to continue to lob fake news at consumers, but armed with the truth, U.S. ethanol producers, farmers, and consumers can and will fight back in 2019, finally putting to bed the erroneous claims and outrageous lies. That’s not a prediction; that’s a guarantee.