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Commentary: E15 Mandate is more harmful than it appears

Commentary: E15 Mandate is more harmful than it appears
November 02
06:00 2017

Across this great nation, African-American families are struggling to do more with less.  They must find ways to keep food on the table at a time when costs are skyrocketing and they are trying to rebuild savings by stringing together part-time jobs.  The Pew Research Center recently reported an alarming statistic:  “the median wealth of non-Hispanic black households fell 33.7%, from $16,600 in 2010 to $11,000 in 2013”.

Given the harsh economic reality of many African-American families, I’ve been disappointed to learn a large number of communities have voted in favor of an ordinance which would bring them even further harm.  Requiring E15 (15 percent corn ethanol, 85% gasoline) to be sold in gas stations, adversely affect many of the most vulnerable citizens.

Currently 10 percent (E10) is the highest corn ethanol content sold.  Supporters said that E15 will improve the environment and lower prices, however, many experts have countered those claims, including scientists, economists, owners of gas stations, restaurant owners, car manufacturers, AAA and even bakers, food pantries and the environmental community.

Corn is used not only in fuel, it is also used for almost every type of food that we consume such as cereal, bread, gravy, (corn syrup, corn starch), fried foods (corn oil), and chicken, beef, pork (corn-feed).  The more corn grown for fuel, the less land for corn for food and feed, driving up costs.  According to FarmEcon, ethanol mandates could result in a family of four paying more than $2,000 per year in extra food costs.  For African-American families who are already struggling to make ends meet, added food costs would undoubtedly hurt.

E15 could also damage car engines as well as lawnmowers, snowblowers, motorcycles and other small engines. When you’re out several thousand dollars because your car or tools got ruined by this slightly higher ethanol blend, or because you accidentally filled up on E15, you’ll understand why the move to E15 is being opposed by a diverse set of groups.

Then there is the local service station owner who has to pay upward of $125,000 to install the equipment that will dispense E15.  Those stations provide jobs, food and staples for families in the community.  What happens to those jobs and retail options for those small owners who won’t be able to afford to install expensive equipment?  They will be gone.  And for larger station owners who can and will have to spend a small fortune to stay in business, who do you think they’re going to pass the costs on to? Their customers, of course.

Proponents of E15 tell us that ethanol blends are less expensive than unadulterated gasoline, but this isn’t true. Because ethanol burns faster than gasoline, so drivers using it run out of fuel faster and have to fill up more often.   Where is the savings?

And E15’s environmental benefits are not what they are purported to be. Studies and reports have concluded that corn ethanol could actually contribute to higher greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).  .Also, increased demand for corn for fuel has led to billions of pounds of fertilizer in rivers, lakes and groundwater. How environmentally friendly is that?

Algenon Cash, managing director of Wharton Gladden & Co., an investment banking firm, is also a national spokesperson for the oil and natural gas industry.  Reach him at acash@nullwhartongladden.com.

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