It’s vacation season – a time when families pack their cars, put their pets in the kennel, and take road trips to the beach and national parks. With gasoline prices at historic lows, motorists will pay less to travel this summer. Gasoline prices during the Memorial Day weekend were the lowest in 11 years.
Still, it’s a shame that families are not getting the full value of every tank of fuel they purchase. Under federal law, most gasoline contains 10 percent ethanol which has less energy than straight gasoline. Motorists get fewer miles to the gallon and must fill up more often.
The ethanol mandate is left over from a time when the United States was producing much less crude oil than today. To reduce the nation’s demand for foreign oil, Congress decided gasoline should be blended with biofuels, including ethanol which is a homegrown fuel made from corn.
But Congress did not anticipate that the United States was on the cusp of a technology revolution that would greatly increase domestic oil and natural gas production. Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing unleashed the energy potential of U.S shale formations, making the United States the world’s largest oil and natural producer.
Now the ethanol mandate is about as useful to families as a flat tire. It depresses mileage; it has been proven to harm vehicle, marine, and outdoor equipment engines; and managing the ethanol program siphons tax dollars away from more essential government programs.
The latest figures on crude oil and gasoline supplies prove the mandate is no longer needed. In April, U.S. crude oil supplies reached 540.6 million barrels, the highest level for any April in 96 years. Gasoline inventories climbed to nearly 240 million barrels, which was the highest for April in 26 years.
The United States is swimming in fuel. Yet the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the biofuel program, continues to force refiners to add more ethanol and biofuels into gasoline every year. The agency wants these new and less-energy dense fuels to grow from 18.1 billion barrels this year to 18.8 billion barrels in 2017. And it’s feared the EPA’s edict will result in some gasoline having more than the safe 10 percent ethanol concentration.
Most vehicles cannot handle more than 10 percent ethanol (E10), which is the most widely available form of motor fuel. Some service stations are pumping E15, which contains up to 15 percent ethanol. Automakers have warned against this fuel, saying its usage will void warranties.
Some consumers have rejected ethanol fuels completely, choosing instead to purchase straight gasoline containing no ethanol. But this option could disappear under the EPA’s 2017 mandate, resulting in less consumer choice.
The government should not be creating the recipe for gasoline. That job belongs to fuels experts and mechanical engineers. And consumers should not be forced to fill their tanks with an ethanol blend that provides less value for the buck and can damage their vehicles.
Plus, it makes no sense to burn food (corn) for fuel. It’s not only wasteful, it’s immoral when you consider how many people are going hungry all over the world. Congress and the EPA should stop meddling in the fuel supply and end the mandate.
Keith Mauck is Founder of GoMarcellusShale.com and Co-founder of ShaleCast.com.