Bridging ethanol’s information gap (Editorial)

(Aug. 23, 2016) In the area of consumer awareness, ethanol needs a jump start.
That’s why the USDA is pumping $100 million into the market in grants to 21 states to promote the use of ethanol by making it easier to get.
In a partnership, Maryland and Virginia, with a $5 million piece of that pie, will install a total of 70 ethanol pumps in 30 stations. In Maryland, those stations are expected to be up and running sometime in November.
And those 70 pumps are projected to be part of 200 to be installed across the Mid-Atlantic.
Lynne Hoot, the long-time, and soon to retire, executive director of the Maryland Grain Producers Association, which is spending some grain checkoff cash on the promotion project offers some of the things folks should know about ethanol.
Maryland motorists might be surprised to know that most of fuel sold in the state contains 10 percent ethanol, known as E10.
The only exceptions, according to Hoot, are in far western Maryland and the Lower Shore where the air quality standards are sufficient not to require a dilution of the petroleum.
The rest of the state uses reformulated gasoline that is required to have improved tail pipe emissions.  That’s achieved by using E10.
There’s been some grumbling about ethanol in the power tool industry and antique tractors don’t like it at all.
All power tools are approved for E10, Hoot says, and adds that antique tractors “don’t do well on modern gasoline with or without ethanol.
“It is when you get to the new E15 fuel that there is confusion,” Hoot said. EPA, she explained, has approved E15 for all vehicles built after 2000.
It has not been approved for small engines, boats, motorbikes and the like. Just cars and light trucks. 
“There is no reason why it should not work for older cars, just that there hasn’t been enough testing,” she said.
There are 18 fueling stations in Maryland currently selling E85. Sales are very dependent on price. When it is less than gasoline, usage goes up, and vice versa.
Most of the new flex fuel stations will not only sell E85, but also E15, through what are known as blender pumps where drivers select the ethanol ingredient they want. The USDA and its state partners hope that will spur expanded use of E15, as E15 can be used for all vehicles produced since 2000, and that’s the vast majority of cars on the highways today.
Corn farmers, here and across the nation, count on ethanol demand and production to buoy the price of their crop in the commodity marketplace. Currently it needs all the help it can get.
USDA and the 21 states involved in the promotion deserve a honk-as-you-go-by salute and thanks.