U.S. is at Blending Wall

Lack of infrastructure is big part of the problem.

Published on: Jan 14, 2011

A Purdue University study of U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency data has determined that the United States is at the "blending wall," the saturation point for ethanol use. According to Wally Tyner, the James and Lois Ackerman Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue, without new technology or a significant increase in infrastructure the country will not be able to consume more ethanol than is being currently produced.

The Purdue report says the United States doesn't have the infrastructure to meet the federal mandate for renewable fuel use with ethanol but could meet the standard with significant increases in cellulosic and next-generation biofuels. Tyner says there simply aren't enough flex-fuel vehicles or E85 stations to distribute more biofuels.

Tyner says there would need to be 2,000 pumps installed per year through 2022 to do it; something he says is not going to happen. There is talk of increasing the maximum amount of ethanol that can be blended with gasoline for regular vehicles from 10% to 15%. But Tyner says that even if the EPA does allow it, the blending wall would be reached again in about four years.