Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thune presses Obama pick on ethanol levels

South Dakota Senator John Thune wants a higher maximum ethanol blend, and badgered Obama's pick for Sec of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, during yesterday's confirmation hearings:

Thune wanted to know if Vilsack would work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy on higher blend levels. Vilsack did not specifically answer Thune's blend question. Instead, he said that meeting the increasing Renewable Fuels Standard will be a challenge unless more efforts are put into biofuels research and development.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, South Dakota has the 6th largest ethanol production capacity by state. So Thune's interest in raising the maximum ethanol blend from its 10% cap is understandable.

But as we noted in examining Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's mandate for all gas in Florida to be an E10 blend by 2010, ethanol isn't always preferable:

a) It appears to cause problems in older cars, boats, and farm equipment, as it binds with water and becomes a gel. This can clog fuel filters and injectors.

b) E10 might be cheaper, but it also leads to lower mpg.

c) It may be contributing to higher food prices.