GREENVILLE — Elected officials throughout the state, including Greenville Mayor Steve Willman, have signed a petition asking the Environmental Protection Agency to allow sales of E15, the latest and most efficient blend of ethanol-based fuel capable of being burned by vehicles with conventional engines, year-round.
Current regulations allow the sale of fuel composed of 10 percent ethanol throughout the year while that containing a 15-percent blend cannot be sold between May and September.
Rick Fox is president of the Ohio Ethanol Producers Association, as well as general manager of POET LLC, a biofuel manufacturer located in Marion. According to Fox, ethanol-based fuel offers a number of benefits for consumers, especially those in rural and farming-based communities.
Corn producers, Fox said, have gotten better at making their product, which has led to a surplus the last few years: in other words, farmers are producing more corn than they’re able to sell through conventional markets. Because ethanol is made from agricultural by-products, more ethanol-based fuel sales equal more demand, which equals more sales for farmers. In addition, Fox said, ethanol is clean-burning and better for the environment.
“I’m old enough to remember smog alerts, and those just don’t happen anymore,” Fox said. “And a lot of that, I believe, can be attributed to ethanol in our fuel.”
Ethanol-based fuel also generally sells for less than conventional gasoline, Fox said, which is a benefit to consumers. According to Fox, 97 percent of the fuel drivers use in their vehicles currently contains 10 percent ethanol.
“They just need access to it year-round, so that retailers will invest in getting the pumps and other equipment in place,” Fox said.
Rather than a waiver specifically authorizing year-round sales of the new 15-percent blend, Fox would ideally like to see things left a bit more open. E15 is currently the highest blend on the market, but in time that will change, and consumers will need to have access to those future varieties of ethanol-based fuel as well.
“E15 is the next step, but it would be nice to have some variability going forward,” Fox said.
But that will require putting pressure on Congress to change the current regulations.
“We have to keep the pressure on the political side to get the conversion made,” Fox said.
Rather than a partisan issue where elected officials tend to vote along party lines, Fox thinks the support, or lack thereof, for ethanol-based fuel comes down to where the politicians are from and where their voter base is located.
“We need to convince them of the amount of support among their constituents in order to convince them this is the best way to vote,” Fox said. “This is our political system at work.”