Increased Ethanol Use Could Save the Day

In a recent hearing discussing an emergency rule that would relax air pollution regulations to increase supplies of gasoline in California, testimony came before the California Air Resources Board stating that ethanol could stabilize and lower gasoline prices.

“Increasing ethanol is a sensible part of broader renewable fuels strategy,” said Teri Shore, a representative of the Bluewater Network environmental group. “We are concerned about the short term increase of emissions, but ethanol provides an opportunity to increase supply while reducing toxic emissions.” A letter submitted to the CARB hearing noted that ethanol can produce economic as well as environmental benefits was signed by more than 30 state legislators. “Ethanol use decreases VOC emissions, decreases toxic emissions, significantly decreases greenhouse gas emissions, and reduces carbon monoxide emissions,” the letter states. It mentioned a new 25-million gallon per year ethanol plant that recently opened in Goshen, California will bring hundreds of direct and indirect jobs and millions of dollars of economic benefits to the state. “There is a growing supply and need for ethanol in this state. California has the opportunity to lead the nation in renewable clean burning fuels,” said John Dunlap, former chair of the California Air Resources Board. Dunlap recommended to the hearing that refiners in California should be given as many tools as possible to achieve the goals of the proposed emergency regulation, including the option of using an increased percentage of ethanol. California currently uses a blend of gasoline with about 5.7 percent ethanol. Proponents of ethanol want to increase it to 10 percent. The state currently uses about 900 million gallons of ethanol a year, which is less expensive than imported oil from out of state. Furthermore, studies have shown the environmental benefits of ethanol in reducing a number of emissions: by using 10 percent ethanol blended fuel will reduce tail pipe emissions of fine particulate matter by 50 percent and reduce carbon monoxide and toxic emission by up to 30 percent.