Gasoline Blending 101: The Ethanol Blending Requirement

I have seen the question frequently arise as to whether the ethanol blending mandate is based on rigid numbers (e.g., 9 billion gallons in 2008) or whether it is actually a percentage requirement, and the number is an estimate based on projected gasoline sales. In other words, let's say that hypothetically gasoline sales this year are only half the level of last year. Is the mandate still for 9 billion gallons, or does it drop to 4.5 billion gallons?

Also, a claim was recently made here that refiners are underblending ethanol this year, and are likely to end the year in violation of the mandate. So, I also sought some clarification around this issue. I contacted Peter Gross at the EIA, who seemed to be their expert in this area. He was kind enough to reply, and clarified both issues:

9 billion gallons (and future levels) are mandated and not based on projected total gasoline sales. The scenario you mention of gasoline sales falling way off (10% at most maybe from last year), would still put the total motor gasoline consumption at more than 130 billion gallons (which includes the 9 billion gallons of ethanol) for the year. Thus, there is plenty of gasoline around even in this extreme case to absorb the ethanol and still not saturate the E10 market. In fact, 9 billion gallons of ethanol means 90 billion gallons of E10 which leaves over 40 billion gallons of conventional gasoline without ethanol.

The immediate problem is not that there will be enough gasoline to absorb the ethanol in 2008, 2009, and probably 2010; in these years the questions are "Is there enough infrastructure to send the ethanol to (and blend with gasoline in) as-of-yet untapped regions, esp. the southeast?" or "Will mounting political pressure over food/grain costs force the EPA to lower the mandate?" (witness Texas's recent waiver application).

After 2011 EIA projects there will not be enough gasoline sold to absorb the ethanol as E10; then the big question becomes how does the U.S. absorb the excess; as E85? (currently the only legal option) or as E15/E20? (as of yet not fully tested). Can the EPA lower the mandate if the E85 infrastructure is inadequate or too costly and the E15/E20 option is not available? Yes, but again this probably would not happen until after the "blend wall" (i.e., saturated E10 market) has occurred.

All obligated parties (refiners and importers of refined fuel products) must satisfy their "renewable volume obligation" (RVO) which is essentially their share (based on how much fuel they produce or import) of the total renewable fuel that must be used (this year 9.0 billion gallons). Volumes of blended renewable fuel are assigned RINs (renewable identification numbers). If a particular party cannot blend their share, they may buy these RINs from parties that have over complied on their RVO (though some alternatives exist such as carrying a RIN deficit for one year or using one's own excess RINs from the previous year). In any case, every year every obligated party is required to document its RINs and show that they have the same or more than their RVO to the EPA. If they don't, they can carry a deficit as mentioned earlier or they will be penalized by the EPA.

Peter Gross

To summarize, the ethanol mandate is based on a fixed number. This means that even as gasoline demand softens, demand for ethanol will not - unless the mandate is rolled back. Even if gasoline demand continues to fall, the ethanol mandate escalates from 9 billion gallons this year to 10.5 billion gallons next year to 12 billion gallons in 2011. This is interesting because right now you can buy a contract for January 2011 delivery for less than you can buy an August 2008 contract. Traders must believe that enough new ethanol capacity will come online to meet the additional mandated demand. (Note: I have learned that ethanol contracts are hard to buy and sell, so there is an added element of risk if you buy a contract.)

Further, refiners can technically underblend, but they must make up for it by either buying credits from parties who overblend, or by carrying a deficit that they have to make up - or suffer penalties. Thus, they can underblend and not be in violation of the mandate, because there are provisions for that. If they don't meet those provisions, they are in violation and are penalized.

This mandate got passed when corn prices were very low, and petroleum prices were also low.

It is time to abandon this mandate, and let ethanol be sold just like any other fuel --- consumers can choose to buy it, or not.

At the same time, the subsidies for ethanol have to be eliminated.

Let' see if unsubsidized ethanol can compete at $3 a gallon.

You can put that in your tank if you want, but I will stick with 100% gasoline.

The problem, of course, would be that in a couple of years gasoline would be very, very high; and there would be no ethanol infrastructure in place to take the pressure off.

Oil is peaking, D111; but demand isn't. Unless you're one of those unlucky few whose car just hates e10 you're coming out well ahead the way things are going. If your car does "hate" e10 you might want to ask your dealer if there's a "reflash" available for your car. There might be.

The operative word is "peaking". Gasoline is still available and the premium between buying 100% gasoline vs. the blends is maybe 20 cents a gallon.

For the extra dimes, you get fuel that is not adulterated --- ethanol has less energy per unit --- and you get to send a message to the ethanol lobby that you do not appreciate the scam they pulled on US taxpayers.

FYI, the US bans duty free imports of ethanol so that their ethanol lobbyists can live high off the hog.

Leave me out of it.

Some people are looking a year, or two, into the future.

And, FYI, we imported about 400,000,000 Gallons of "tariff-free" ethanol this year; and, we'll import about 600,000,000 gallons of "tariff-free" ethanol in 09'.

BTW, that "duty-free" ethanol gets the $0.51/gal Blenders Credit just like Domestic ethanol does.


You go buy the stuff --- and subsidize the lazy native ethanol farmers and brewers.

Now, let the free market decide whether we want gasoline (pure) and is willing to pay for it, or that blended stuff.

Can the tax credit so I don't pay it each time I buy a steak, have corn flakes, pork chops, chicken, or everything else that corn and grains go into.

I don't need to be reminded of the power of this corrupt ethanol lobby every time I buy groceries.

Quite frankly, I would pay a nice premium for gasoline just to put these ethanol tax thieves out of business.

Yeah, you liked it better when I was subsidizing you every time you ate a steak, or a bowl of corn flakes; Didn't you?

Lazy, "Native" ethanol farmers? Okey, dokey. I think we've got YOU figured out, now.

You are free to go to Washington to demand an end to agricultural supports and any subsidies on cattle, beef, pig and pork production.

Let's put the Department of Agriculture out of business.

While we are at it... Department of Energy has got to be pretty high on the list too....

Is it a viable proposition to increase the supply of ethanol by increasing imports from Brazil and other tropical countries? I understand that there would be some resistance from the farm lobby. But if we could do this incrementally, maybe it is implementable. Thus we can reduce the price of ethanol and reduce the amount of corn going into biofuels and reduce impacts on food costs.

The subsidies are not going away, they are going UP. The new Farm Bill is a giant compromise that is not going to be undone easily over the next 5 years until the next Farm Bill.

Finally, the bill (Farm Bill) increases the tax credit for cellulosic ethanol from $0.51 to $1.01 per gallon to jumpstart the industry and provides production incentives for advanced biofuels through the continuation of the bioenergy program

Not unless every senator and congressman that comes up for election this fall loses their seat because they backed the farm bill's provisions for ethanol subsidies.

The coalition against subsidizing ethanol is building pretty quickly --- cattlemen, pork, chicken farmers, food processors, anti poverty groups, you name it.

Interesting thought. However, it seems that American Voters support Increased Ethanol Blending by 59 - 30.

On the other hand, McCain's opposition to ethanol seems increasingly likely to cost him Iowa, Mn, Wi, and possibly Mo, thus sinking his Presidential ambitions.

Doesn't people on this site get it?

Corn ethanol derived from corn grown in the USA are an incredibly inefficient source of energy --- by the time you subtract the energy inputs required to make and distribute it (diesel fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, etc.) the net energy return on investment is marginally positive.

Brazilian ethanol from sugar cane, on the other hand, have a pretty good positive energy return on investment.

The only reason we bother with ethanol was, once upon a time, it was a good way to stitch up a political constituency with farmers faced with depressed prices for corn, and wacky arguments that it is "renewable".

A more recent argument in favor of it is that it is useful as a diluent in place of MMT, which got phased out because it contaminated water supplies. Diluents are used to lower the combustion temperature of, mostly summer gasoline, in order to reduce pollution.

Otherwise, the use of ethanol --- a low grade, corrosive fuel that attracts water --- is decidely bad for most gasoline engines.

Now, if we are in Brazil, it is a pretty good deal. But, in the USA, corn based ethanol is not even a very good renewable --- not when you use fossil fuels and inputs to make it.

Let's get rid of this pig.

"Let's" = Let us

Who, exactly, is "Us," D111?

The Brazil ethanol story IMO is all about the E100 which is not pure refined (90 or 95% I think) and requires a fraction of the energy to refine thus making it "economical".

Of coarse the auto fleet had to be retooled for this.$$$$$

Ethanol proponents love to cite Brazil but fail to compare apples to apples.

What about 90% refined corn ethanol and re-tool our auto fleet?

We do need to do a little research on hydrous ethanol, though.

You are making that up entirely. The vast majority of etanol consumed as fuel in Brazil is distilled just like in the US and blended with gasoline.

No E100 cars are manufactered in Brazil any more. It took me five seconds to look that up. Would have helped you to have tried to find facts to support your argument as you would have found out you were wrong and saved the post.

The above quoted study is a slick propaganda piece that is put out to scam politicians by the lobbyists who will reap billions of dollars from the subsidies they receive from Washington.

Back on topic: It was a Good Post, Robert. Good Research is Always appreciated.

I bought a (used) '93 BMW, stick shift, six or seven years ago. It got almost 35 mpg at that time. Now it gets almost 27. What's changed? I started using regular instead of hi test on someone's advice. And now there's the ethanol. I'm going back to hi test, but I can't (easily) get rid of the ethanol. I'm curious to know what part of the reduction in mileage is due to ethanol. Not that my individual experiment will give me more than a hint, because too many variables are nixed together.

But if ethanol causes any significant part of the reduction, then it's horse manure even in replacing gasoline.

Ethanol has less energy per unit volume than gasoline.

Then there is the problem that no one wants to talk about -- which is how much water is absorbed by the ethanol before it is pumped into your tank (where it absorbs more water).

If there is a 10% blend of ethanol, you should be seeing a low single % digit reduction in gas mileage, all things being equal.

The number can be greater if the ethanol managed to absorb a lot of water before it is pumped into your car.

If you have a choice, not every station sell blended gas, always choose a station that sells pure gasoline.

My bet: the reduction in mileage has something else to do with your car beside just switching out premium to regular gas with ethanol.

I would start with a tune up, check tire pressure, check muffler / catalytic converter clogging, etc.

One very likely problem is if you start using gasoline with ethanol in a car that has been run a long time on regular no ethanol gas, the ethanol blended gas is so corrosive that it will "lift" a lot of crud, including deposits from your fuel tank, and normal fuel line deposits, and clog up your fuel filter, fuel injectors, etc. In older cars that are not equipped to handle ethanol, it could have damaged the fuel system's rubber tubing, seals, gaskets, etc. on top of this. Or, if you had a fiberglass fuel tank, ethanol can literally cause the tank's resins to dissolve, with the crap ending up in your engine --- and dire consequences.

I had that happen (ethanol corrosion induced clogging of fuel system) with a 1 year old late model Ford truck that got its first dose of E90 with me --- and it ended up costing a brand new fuel injector, spark plug, oxygen sensor, and possibly damaged the catalytic converter as well.

Go back to premium with no ethanol if I were you.

Assuming you have replaced fuel, air filters, spark plugs, cables, distributor cap and everything else that normally replaced on a car that is over 10 years old:

Try the following tests:

1. Pressure test the fuel system before the fuel injectors.

See if both volume and pressure are within spec.

If it is not, start working backwards, from bad fuel pump, clogged filter, obstructed lines, etc.

Be aware that often, it is the return line to the fuel tank that clogs, and you might miss it if you don't test the return line for obstruction.

2. Pressure test the fuel system up to the injectors

Again, see if pressure and volume are within spec.

Sometimes, a visual inspection will tell you if the pattern is good, but nothing beats a proper flow pressure / volume test on a bench.

3. Compression test the engine and see if it is within spec.

4. Check spark plug for function

5. Computer diagnostics of vehicle.

The good computers will do things like turn off cylinders one at a time and see if there is a particularly weak or strong group of cylinders --- which is normally a clear sign of trouble.

My bet: you have very badly clogged injectors, that are clogged with fine debris at the built in filter in front of the fuel injectors. More than likely, the injector itself is clogged.

Answer: Replace the entire set of injectors $$$$$$ and purge the entire fuel system (fuel line, tank, new fuel filter) at the same time with clean fuel.

While you are at it, check for rust in the gas tank and lines, and replace the entire system if there is significant rust or corrosion.

The reason I suspect this is that 10% ethanol blend means that the injectors have to, on average, deliver a larger volume of fuel to make up for the less energy in ethanol.

If the injectors are really old before you went gasohol, it probably had "worn in" from your normal driving to a particular stroke length.

Add some crud that got through the filters for when you first use ethanol blend -- consisting of a mixture of rust, water, fine metallic particles that act like sanding grit, and all the deposits that were on the inside of the fuel lines (from having the gas heat up when you stop the car), and you probably got a plugged system. Add on top of this degraded gaskets and other parts.

That is about the only thing that can account for a whopping 20% drop in mileage.

You sure you don't just want to get rid of this thing rather than to pay close to several thousand dollars of repairs on it?

Add the following:

Test oxygen sensors for function --- while you are at it, test or replace every sensor that is replacable on a car that old: MAP sensor, temperature sensors, spark knock sensor, etc.

Don't forget to check for a clogged catalytic converter / exhaust pipe / muffler.

I bought a (used) '93 BMW, stick shift, six or seven years ago. It got almost 35 mpg at that time. Now it gets almost 27. What's changed? I started using regular instead of hi test on someone's advice. And now there's the ethanol. I'm going back to hi test, but I can't (easily) get rid of the ethanol. I'm curious to know what part of the reduction in mileage is due to ethanol. Not that my individual experiment will give me more than a hint, because too many variables are nixed together.

But if ethanol causes any significant part of the reduction, then it's horse manure even in replacing gasoline.

Dave, there are an awfully lot of variables in your situation. Six Years is one. Switching from Hi-Test to 87 Octane is another. Weather. Did you move? Most Hi-Test contains about 10% Ethanol.

As I stated earlier: If you get a large mileage drop going from 87 NL to E10 check with your dealer for any possible "reflashes" available for your car.

You might try adding a couple of gallons of e85 for every ten gallons of e10. Some cars really do get better mileage with a midlevel blend of ethanol than with e10.


Most likely the drop in octane ruined your mileage, most high performance engine have "knock" or detonation detection and retard the ignition timing to prevent it, retarding the timing reduces the efficiency of the engine. Ethanol is used as an octane booster, so in small amounts it improves the energy availability of the fuel (including the gasoline). Ethanol has a high octane but lower energy, it is disingenuous to focus solely on the energy content.


Dave, a decrease in MPG from 35 mpg to 27 mpg is due to a mechanical problem. Your owner's manual will tell you if a higher octane fuel is required. If it is not, you will notice no measurable difference between regular and premium.

There are three common problems that can severely affect the mpg of older vehicles. Rather than list them here, go to

Good luck:)

Most likely your vehicle (which is quite old) has non-ethanol compliant rubber, seals, gaskets, etc.and it has been damaged by the introduction of ethanol blend fuel.

Even if it is compliant, if you never used ethanol blend for some years, and then suddenly begin to use it, ethanol blend have a habit of loosening or causing to be induced into the fuel system gunk, crud, and other deposits that have been formed (and remain perfectly harmless as it is immobile all these years) that ethanol and the water it contains loosen and allowed it to be induced into the vehicle fuel system.

If you ran the car from day 1 on ethanol blend on a car designed to run on 10% ethanol, this is unlikely to happen --- the deposits are never allowed to build up to begin with. But when you switch like you did, that is usually bad news.

If returning it to straight hi octane gas do not cure the problems, you probably have an expensive repair ahead of you.

Look on the bright side. There are people with boats / ATVs etc. that have fiberglass tanks that found the ethanol blend caused the resin to go goey, allowing a mass of crud to enter the fuel system, clogging carburetors, fuel injectors, etc. until the whole thing became a whopping expensive mess to repair --- including replacing the fuel tank / lines and virtuallly everything down to the exhaust pipe.

With some luck, some clever product liability lawyer will figure this out, and start suing gas stations, ethanol manufacturers, refineries, etc. that stuck this pig on people without warning them of the consequences.

Let the fat cat ethanol brewers who collect these tax payer subsidies pay for the repairs to vehicles they have damaged.

DAve my guess is it's 16 years old and the compression ratio has dropped . check that vs, new spec, and I bet its 20% down. nothing else you add, or change, will help that !

There are different issues with the Ethanol debate:

- the subsidies to corn production and ethanol, and the effect on food prices in North America.
- the 'closing' of the USA market to greener ethanol, for example the Brazilian sugarcane derived production. There seems to be a tariff barrier to direct imports of the Brazilian product - although some of it gets in if distilled in the Caribbean (Brazilian produced molasses, exported and refined in a Caribbean country).

I owned a E100 vehicle in Brazil many years ago (a VW Passat, 1981 model). It worked, and helped the country thru the bad oil situation in the late 70's.

The Brazilian government set ethanol prices at a fraction of the gasoline price, to account for the lower energy content in the fuel. Ethanol sold for about 60 to 65% of regular gasoline.

Today a lot of the automotive fuel in Brazil is pure ethanol, and it's also mixed with ALL gasoline (I believe at a 20% rate). There are some good info pages in Wikipedia about the Brazilian ethanol program (ProAlcool) -

For North America, mixing the ethanol would reduce the demand for oil, and that can be positive.

Making Ethanol from corn is not a winning proposition, though. Would be best sourced from a tropical location, and can be produced from sugarcane with much less impact on food supplies.

You make several very good points, Delta. Sugar Cane ethanol is cheaper/more efficient to make. However, a lot of people think that we should try to develop our own Domestic Industry, also. Corn has helped us do that. Keep an eye on "Municipal (Solid) Waste to Ethanol." It's gonna be a biggie.

Another problem is Brazil's extremely High "Import" Tariffs. Just about the highest in the world. I read the other day how a EU Trade Official was "Shocked" at Brazil's seeming indifference to the idea of allowing more imports in return for exporting more ethanol.

At some point we've got to start keeping some of this money "at home." I've sold a lot of stuff to American Farmers; but I've never been able to sell anything to Saudi Princes, or Brazilian Cane Producers.

Anyway, maybe we'll be able to work a little more trade out in the future. BTW, did you see where Dedini has come up with a Cane-Processing system that's Water "Positive?"

Let's make gasoline in the United States.

It can be made by simply taking coal, hydrogenating it, and turning it into synthetic gasoline.

Mind you.... the stuff will cost about $12 a gallon or more....

So a subsidy of $9 a gallon paid to synthetic fuel makers will make this stuff so plentiful... and it will be made right in USA.

"Another problem is Brazil's extremely High "Import" Tariffs. Just about the highest in the world. I read the other day how a EU Trade Official was "Shocked" at Brazil's seeming indifference to the idea of allowing more imports in return for exporting more ethanol."

You should take a look at WTC someday, they publish the importing tariffs of all their members. Compare EU, US and nordic countries tariffs with BRIC ones. Except for China, you'll be surprised.

Also, this ignores the fact that lots of comercial protection in the first world is done by non-tarifary means.

kdolliso -

No, I definitely do NOT think that municipal solid waste to ethanol is going to be a 'biggie'.

Recent history has shown that municipal solid waste to ANYTHING will always be (at best) a 'little-ie'.

Why? The short answer is simply material handling difficulties and hence cost. Basically, the stuff has an inherently very low value per ton but a high cost in doing anything halfway profitable with that same ton. It's an exercise in pushing a turd uphill.

I would think that the fact that so many waste-to-energy schemes have gone bust would have at least halfway dampened your apparently unbridled enthusiasm. But no, both the True Believer (to give you the benefit of the doubt) and the shameless self-interested huckster/ booster (to not give you as much benefit of the doubt) are structurally incapable of seeing or hearing anything negative about what they perceive as 'The Next Great Thing'.

So lots of luck. My only advice to you would be not to invest any of your own money into any muni solid waste to ethanol scheme. It's a sure loser.

Here's one company that's betting against you.

Here's another.

Then, there's Coskata. Remember them? GM's betting on that one. Syntec?

The "Past" is the "Past," Joule. Time, and Technology marches on. And, gasoline costs $4.00/gal, now.

I'm betting on the Gassifiers.

Meanwhile, back on target. It looks like the wholesale price of ethanol is coming back a bit.

$2.38 minus the $0.51 blender's credit would make the cost to blender about $1.87/gal. Admittedly, there's on average an extra fifteen, or twenty cents, on average, cost of transportation which would bring the cost to blender up to around $2.00/gal.

Given that we're reducing demand for gasoline by at least 450,000 - 500,000 Barrels/Day we've almost got to be coming out somewhat ahead on the ethanol mandates.

IMO the futures price for ethanol does not correlate well with the actual rack price. I think it is because ethanol futures are illiquid.

The rack price is a much better guide as to what is going on as far as ethanol plant profitability and ethanol's competive position with gasoline. Recently when I went to fill up my flex fuel ranger gasoline had dropped to $3.56 but E85 was still at $2.96 so I passed it up.

Looking at the futures price can be deceptive since actual ethanol prices don't follow it very well for some reason.

X, there are Some Better E85 Prices out there, in Iowa. Hopefully, some more stations in your area will start selling it, and the increased competition will force prices down.

Notice, the "rack" spreads are Averages for the state. Some Blenders will be more competitive than others. Maybe, when the U.S. manufacturers increase the number of flexfuel vehicles (and, pray-God, the efficiency of said vehicles) in the next few years more pumps will be installed, and competition will take hold.

On the above link it helps to click on the "date" twice. That will put the most recent prices at the top.

August ethanol prices of $2.48 a gallon may be compared to RBOB gasoline at $3.07 a gallon. Ethanol has about 2/3 the BTU's of gasoline. Thus we do not get any real improvement in terms of the cost of energy delivered and had to be taxed for it while noticing painful cost increases at the supermarket.

To get 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol would require about 5.5 billion bushels of corn at roughly 2.7 gallons of ethanol from a bushel of corn. The distillation process also consumes energy from natural gas or coal.

The U.S. corn crop was 40 percent of the global corn harvest and supplied about 70 percent of the world’s corn exports. The United States 2007 corn harvest was estimated to be about 13 billion bushels. The United States corn exports in 2007 were about 2.25 billion bushels. The 5.5 billion bushels of corn that might be required for the 15 billion gallons of ethanol allowed from grain are more than the entire world export market for corn.

The 2008 harvest was forecast to be under 12 billion bushels before the flooding in Iowa and the midwest. Since the 2008 U.S. corn harvest was forecast to be less than the 2007 harvest results before the flooding in Iowa; predictions that corn harvests would rise with rising ethanol production may be proven false in this case. Farmers reckoned soybeans to have a better ROI than corn during the 2008 planting season and switched from planting more corn to planting more soybeans due to free market demand factors.

There were reports of 50 year low grain stockpiles last December. While Australian wheat harvests are expected to recover this year due to increased rain, there are yet pressures on grain supply from attempts to increase ethanol production, some of which was made from not only corn, but wheat. If there will be a shortage of grain it might be noticed in the late winter or spring before next year's northern hemisphere harvests, and not during the height of the world's grain harvests. Already there are predictions of higher meat prices coming next winter due to feedlot owners selling their herds to meat packing houses due to high grain costs and low meat prices. Tyson's foods reported a 90% drop in profits due to higher corn costs adversely affecting their chicken raising operations. Ethanol production has the potential to put many out of work.

This problem is being subsidized by an act of Congress, signed by the President of the United States. Because the ethanol production quotas were set by law instead of by free market capitalism, there is evidence the consumer might be subject to abuse

Rainsong, due to ethanol's much higher octane (113 vs. 87) you can, by using a smaller displacement/higher compression engine, get the same mileage/hp from a gallon of ethanol as a gallon of gasoline. Just ask the people at Indycar Racing.

These engines are coming.

You must recognize that field corn is primarily (80%) used for cattle/livestock feed. To make ethanol you only use the starch from the corn - and, soon, the oil. That means that for every bushel (56 lbs) of corn refined you are returned 17.5 lbs of cattle feed that is Superior to the original corn. Also, the average refinery is a bit above 2.8 gal/bu, and will probably be 2.9 fairly soon (some are doing 2.96, as we speak.)

For these reasons we will get about 2 Billion Bu Corn equivalent back from the 5 billion bushels processed. This will net out to about 3 Billion bushels used. This will net out to about 22% of our 13.5 bu (est. for 09') corn crop.

As for putting people out of work: Which do you think will have the bigger effect - another $0.10 in a pound of beef, or chickens/ or another $5.00 for a gallon of gas?

I'm betting on the high gasoline price.

X, have you tried adding a little E85 to E10 to bring it up to E30? I think I read, somewhere, that one Ranger owner got pretty good results doing that.

Also, you might want to check with Your Dealer about any "reflashes" for your Ranger. They won't tell you unless you ask.

D111 must be from the oil companies or the grocer's association. He posts so many half truths and falsehoods that it's not worth the time to refute them all here since they've been refuted elsewhere. Here's a couple.

Corn futures are more than 26% off their high - so how was the ethanol mandate responsible for the price drop? (Hey, by the logic that ethanol was responsible for the price increase, it must be responsible for the decrease.) About 10% of last years record corn crop was surplus - how did corn rotting in piles cause feed prices to rise? D111 and other posters also confused corn-based ethanol tax incentives with those of cellulose-based ethanol incentives. It's apples and oranges. The blender's tax credit rarely, if ever goes to farmers or ethanol plants - almost all the time it is credited to the petroleum blender - the oil company or distributor. The new energy bill reduced the corn-based ethanol blenders tax credit to $0.45/gallon from $0.51/gallon.

Ethanol is and was (Luftwaffe, anyone?) successfully used in aircraft engines, so just how does ethanol destroy or gum-up engines? and and .

Please in the future post current scientifically, historically, or legislatively based facts, and not adhominin propoganda from the grocers or oil companies.

Corn prices are nowhere near their historic high, adjusted for CPI inflated constant dollars. In fact, corn prices now are about running average in a forty year window in constant CPI terms.

Scroll down to Zell's Real Corn and Corn graph. The CPI adjusted high was $16.93 per bushel (actual $3.97 in 1975 dollars). Ethanol had nothing to do with the wide commodity price swings over the past forty years and has practically nothing to do with the current commodity cyclical price swings.

"Ethanol had nothing to do with the wide commodity price swings over the past forty years and has practically nothing to do with the current commodity cyclical price swings."

Nope, Ethanol cannot possibly be responsible for the price swings of corn, even when it is using something between 1/5 to 1/4 of corn output right now, and eventually, 1/3.

It is just normal commodity price swings, just like the price of oil.

In inflation adjusted terms, oil is just slightly above its peak (at $147) price in the 1980s, there is no such thing as peak oil --- oil price is still way cheaper than it was in the 1920s and 1930s.

People should just accept that oil prices will eventually come down, just like corn prices. Peak oil is a myth just as it is a myth that taxpayer subsidized ethanol production from corn causes corn prices to go up.

D111 must be investing in vehicle engine replacements in Brazil. Brazil uses two ethanol blends: 100% and 22%. D111 must be counting on all those Ford, GM, Fiat, and VW etc., engines to stop running any minute now - since Brazil's had a viable ethanol industry for 30 years . . .

And if it's corn that is the problem, and sugar cane is so great, why not switch to sorghum as the raw material to make ethanol? It's the closest equal to sugar cane we have in U.S. agriculture.


We can perfectly do sugarcane ethanol in the US. There are at least a 100 million acres where sugarcane can be grown in the US.

In addition, we produce about 250 Million Tons of Solid Waste in the U.S. every year. This would (I believe, "Will") Produce about 25 Billion Gallons of Ethanol. This is Low-Hanging Fruit. The technology is Currently in use.

Ethanol political supporters are finally fighting back the anti ethanol Jihad with some success:

There is a very large energy waste when corn is fed to animals or exported. Unfortunately, those who are in these businesses will have to reduce their operations and it will be financially painful for them.

Perhaps some mitigation legislation to ease the transition is in order.

X, I've got a hunch the pain is going to be pretty temporary. Americans aren't going to quit buying hamburger meat for their kids just because it went up $0.15/lb (that's about the increase that can be attributed to higher corn prices.)

And, for all their caterwauling, and garment-rending Tyson, Pilgrims Pride, and Smithfield are making beaucoup bucks.

The ranchers are getting squeezed pretty hard, right now; but, I would be surprised if things weren't a lot better on the ranch by this time next year.

In 2004 the United States consumed 140 billion gallons of gasoline.

By 2022 the United States Federal government required the use of 36 billion gallons of ethanol per year. Of this 36 billion, 15 billion gallons of grain alcohol may be used. This is roughly 10 percent gasoline, 10 percent grain ethanol. If you ever invent a way to make cellulosic ethanol on a large scale that does not cause a motorists to riot over increased fuel costs, you might get something closer to 25 percent ethanol and 75 percent gasoline.

Since the grain or sugar ethanol is currently the only major source of ethanol, you might notice corn stockpiles diminishing and skyrocketing corn prices as several states have passed 10 percent ethanol blending requirements and several western aligned nations also mandated ethanol use, not knowing they might crash the export grain exchange in the process causing mass starvation and hyper food inflation. The Federal government expects the ethanol industry to come up with the cellulosic ethanol, or grain/sugarcane ethanol and cellulosic ethanol. So far there is but a trickle of cellulosic ethanol as the fixed and operating costs of such ventures may have scared away investors who are already hurt by the subprime real estate scandal and bank failures. It is sort of like the hype about algae biofuel. More hype than any sort of relief at the pumps.

Arrg...I keep crashing..
Anyhoo...Wouldn't it be great if the actual energy content of gasoline were posted right next to the Octane rating? When I had a natural gas bill, I paid a premium if there happened to be a little ethane or propane mixed in. Only a few cents, but it was laid out to see.

I've played around with buying different grades of gasoline to see if my mileage changes with grade on long road trips. It has not changed at all, so I stick to the lowest octane regular. The one exception was very low (85) regular in the boonies of Nevada 10-15 years ago. Blazing across the Nevada desert at full throttle with a Windsurf board strapped to the top of my S-10 delivered the best mileage I ever got with that truck. Pure hydrocarbon, not the half burnt stuff we have to buy now.

If anyone has access to the data (or a GC-Mass Spec) I like to see the ranges of energy content. Seems a decent Chemistry lab would have the equipment to analyze a handful of gasoline samples, quantify the major components and calculate a kJ/mL value. I taught analytical chemistry in another life and did a version of this...not looking at energy, but ID-ing the source of contamination of 'contaminated' soil samples. The hardest part was getting the stations to give me 5 mL of each grade of gas. The GC-MS does all the real work.


I don't want no steenking ethanol!!

Hi, this is my first post to the oil drum. What an excellent site! This is the most optimistic and forward looking peak oil site there is. I can't keep up with all the articles and the comments though. I just try to read the ledes at least. Anyways, it seems that even if the EROEI of ethanol was 1.1:1, which I'm not sure if it is, it is anything but "renewable".

What is it doing to our soils and the world food market? If it messes up our soils, how is that renewable? I've been looking for gas stations that don't have E10, but every one around here seems to. I want no part in ethanol.

I hope Obama hears from enough people, assuming he is elected, to undo this B.S.

I'm 36, live in Fort Worth, Texas, and would appreciate finding some friends here. No one seems to take me seriously, and I am dead scared and full of anxiety about my future. I have no job, and consequently no health insurance. I make money playing online poker. Over the last few months I've been doing a lot of walking, which is actually not too hard here. I figure the #1 thing I can do to prepare for the future is to get in shape, and walking is helping with that. That's one of the reasons I moved here from Cedar Hill, TX (that place had no buses and hardly any sidewalks). I'd like to learn how to grow some food, maybe somebody could help me.

I live in a small duplex near T.C.U. and there is some space in the backyard to setup a garden. I have collected some bricks which might help with a garden, and I pick up wood and other junk I may be able to trade on Craig's List. I don't even know if this site has Personal Messages, but please do if you can.

You have some advantages and disadvantages. You aren't going to learn much 'hands on' stuff online, but you will learn about the big picture. The atmosphere for online poker is fertile right now, but may not be going forward, as 'credit' easily extended via banks and a slowing economy may take discretionary funds away from your 'fish'.

I recommend a barbell strategy. Continue your current path 50% of time -its probably what you enjoy and are good at. But then COMPLETELY turn it off 50% of time and get out in your community-ask questions - meet people -don't necessarily talk about Peak Oil, but express an interest in some skills and you will find mentors of sorts. The biggest asset post peak IMO, more than money, more than stuff, is a network of local people who like and trust you. Every 'sesh' you play online is a few hours less opportunity to meet other like minded people in Ft Worth.

By the way - a low EROI technology like 1.1:1 CAN be renewable - the low EROI doesn't make it non-renewable. The problems are 1)along with low EROI come large non-energy requirements, (e.g. the EROWI, EROSI, and EROLI (water, soil and land) are very low) and 2) it is attempting to replace something with a much higher energy gain - this second fact is not noticed by an ethanol entrepreneur but shows up via energy inflation exogenously in the system.

Good luck.

Energy inflation ---- thanks for mentioning this, Nate.

I knew the 1.1:1 ratio was OK, you're making my point for me about the soil. I didn't include water, but that would be a problem too. I think the basic problem is our entire society is built around cars, and that has to change. I think that James Howard Kunstler's analysis is spot on, and I think a lot of things are going to have to down size.

I hope to get a bicycle soon, for now, I even walk to the grocery store from time to time with a backpack and a single bag. I've thought about selling my car. The brakes went out a while back, and for 2 months I was walking every single day while I waited on my $600 Economic Stimulus payment to go towards fixing the brakes. But now, my left foot hurts, and I am driving again. My feet are totally flat, too. Doh! So I guess a bicycle would help.

By the way, I have a 1989 Chrysler New Yorker. It's 20 years old now. Do you think the 10% ethanol (E10) screws up my car? Could I call Chrysler and find out? (I've heard they may go bankrupt, so I better hurry up and call, right?) Do all gas stations in Texas use E10? Now that I know about it and look, I always seem to find that sticker that says "this uses 10% ethanol." I read there are some states that mandate that. If so, and it messes up my car, am I just screwed?

I do notice a lot of people walking here in my community.

I'm pretty antisocial, actually. I just don't seem to get along very well with others, never really have, and being an atheist and a Democrat here in Texas doesn't help. I guess I'll have to change. I guess I'll try and find some meetup or something. I see there is no personal messaging on here, and I don't really want to give out any more personal information. SIGH.


The news is bad and it's hard to find like-minded people. A lot of PO groups just seem to evaporate.
I would suggest you go to a permaculture/renewable/peak oil conference near you and try to find people at the conference from the D/FW area.

Try always to keep an open mind(even about ethanol).

They don't give any prizes for being right.

Just about everyone is scratching their heads about this energy problem but solutions will be very slow in coming, so the easiest fix is to use less energy (which is hard to do also).
As far as I know, nobody here has any answers.

It's hard to participate in the energy tranformation economy because thanks to the credit collapse, credit is tight and business is contracting (but maybe not in Texas).

Hopefully Obama can at least stabilize the economy so we don't go into a second Great Depression but forget about growth from this level.

The average man will survive the way he always has--by tightening the belt in bad times.
But fortune often favors the brave.

The number of ethanol loons here show that there is actually a big need for ethanol, in the form of beer, wine, liquor, etc. to keep them quiet and out of trouble.

Having learned how profitable it is to rip off the American taxpayer, I am going to get myself a subsidy from Congress to fund coal to gas conversion.

I am starting out by asking for $20 a gallon subsidy, plus all my capital and startup cost paid, plus a working capital grant of $1,000 per gallon installed capacity grant....

I will even promise to put a plant in every congressional district.

If they go for ethanol... they will surely go for my plan.

Interesting thread but one thing seems omitted: MTBE-Ethanol is the perfect substitute for this horrible and once widely used octane booster- does not pollute groundwater and generally has a much lower health impact. Some Ethanol is naturally needed just to supplant MTBE, and has been used increasingly in recent years. I've never really found out exactly what volume of ethanol is needed just to cover that need..anyone have that volume figure?