New gas pumps bring better options

On April 25, it was announced that drivers in northwest Indiana would begin seeing some important changes at area gas stations. Family Express, a favorite local company, is installing new fuel pumps across eight counties with help from the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and the United States Department of Agriculture. Drivers will have the option to fuel up on higher ethanol blends like E15 and E85, as well as the traditional ten percent blend standard at gas stations across the United States.

It is important to recognize that this isn’t just a victory for Indiana farmers. Sure, they grow the feedstocks for renewable fuels, but just about everyone outside of Saudi Arabia wins when motorists have the option to select cheaper, cleaner-burning, home-grown fuel.

For consumers, the advantage is obvious. Biofuel blends give drivers an inexpensive alternative to traditional gasoline and create competition in a business in which foreign oil conglomerates have had a corner on the market for decade. They boost the octane in fuel, which is why NASCAR drivers use a fifteen percent ethanol blend to power their high-performance engines.

As the name suggests, E85 is 85 percent ethanol. It is often the least expensive option, but drivers should check to make sure they have a “’FlexFuel” vehicle. About 450,000 Hoosiers already drive Flex Fuel cars and trucks, and nearly all automakers now produce engines that are designed to run on higher biofuel blends.

E15, on the other hand, is approved by the EPA for use in all light-duty conventional vehicles model year 2001 and newer. That means just about anyone not driving a classic car or school bus can take advantage of this option to save money at the pump.

The most important benefits, however, don’t belong to drivers alone. Thanks to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a bipartisan policy enacted in 2005, nearly all gasoline sold in the United States contains at least ten percent biofuel. That share is poised to grow, helping to vastly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and smog-forming pollutants that poison our air and damage the climate. In fact, global ethanol production and use in the transportation sector reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 589 million metric tons over the past decade, the equivalent of taking more than 124 million cars off of the road.

At the same time, biofuels contribute to America’s energy security. Last year alone, biofuels displaced 527 million barrels of oil, which is more than the U.S. imported from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined. Since enacting the RFS, America has become the world’s leading producer of biofuels, and companies have invested billions into opening plants in Indiana and other states that support more than 852,000 high-tech, green American jobs across manufacturing, engineering, science, research and development. 

Even with all these advantages, the shift away from fossil fuels remains a struggle. Oil lobbyists and their allies in Congress are working hard to undermine the RFS. Misinformation about ethanol can make drivers hesitant to select greener options. And retailers in some areas of the country can be slow to offer their customers higher blends. The installation of these 45 new blender pumps at Family Express shows that America is pushing forward and demonstrates the power of consumers to demand better, cleaner, more affordable options. Let’s hope our lawmakers keep the pedal down on renewable fuels and show their support for the RFS the next time someone suggests that fossil fuels should get their monopoly back.

Michael McIntire is a farmer from Lowell and serves on the Board of Directors of the Indiana Corn Growers Association, the policy voice for Indiana corn farmers. To learn more, visit www.incorn.org/icga or facebook.com/indianacorngrowers.