I Hope VEETC's Demise Renews Our Focus on Ethanol

Prairie Gleanings

There's an 800-lb gorilla in the room. It's called the Toyota Prius.

Published on: June 20, 2011
If recent activity in Congress is any indicator, it appears support for ethanol blending credits is drying up.

While much of ethanol’s old guard will likely lament the eventual demise of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, I see this as an opportunity. As long as VEETC exists, too many ethanol support groups will pour money and effort into renewing it.

Instead of keeping a blending credit alive, we need to focus all of our energy on moving this homegrown fuel to the next level. The next step is drumming up consumer support. To get consumers on board, we need to put a fuel choice in front of them. The little “fuel may contain up to 10% ethanol by volume” labels aren’t enough.

Of course, to allow consumers to choose, we need blender pumps. Fuel station owners aren’t going to upgrade to blender pumps when only a small percentage of their customers can actually run blends of E15 and greater in their automobiles.

So, we need more flex-fuel vehicles on the road. This is where the rubber meets the road.

There’s an 800-lb gorilla in the room. It’s called the Toyota Prius. I’ll be a lot of folks buy the Prius because they see it as environmentally friendly. However, I bet more buy them because they get over 40 mpg, i.e. it’s an economical decision.

In my mind, it’s tough to pitch an FFV as more environmentally friendly or economical than the Prius. Dirt cheap ethanol prices at the pump would be a start. However, if we can’t win either of these fronts, we have to rely on the Patriotic arguments. “Buy an FFV because it’s good for America.” With one U.S. automaker on solid ground, that’s a tough bid. (FYI, this argument will work on a very small percentage of younger generations. They’ve grown up in a global economy.)

To sum up, we need more drivers in FFVs. They subsequently need to demand higher blends of ethanol. If we can’t do this, ethanol will not make it to the replacement fuel stage.

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