This Christmas list item gets complicated, so bear with me.
An RVP waiver – Reid Vapor Pressure waiver – is what Americans really need to use more renewable fuels and capitalize on the domestic, clean-burning fuel we have right at our fingertips.
SANTA, BRING THAT WAIVER FOR E15!
The back story on this request is that when it’s really hot, bad stuff (emissions) evaporate from your fuel (evaporative emissions) and can cause summertime air pollution. The EPA doesn’t want that to happen.
They measure the evaporative emissions using the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) standard. The higher the RVP of a fuel, the worse its emissions are.
The RVP of pure ethanol is 2. The RVP of gasoline can range from 7 to 15.
But when blended, the RVP of an ethanol/gasoline blend can exceed the RVP standard. The RVP of a 10% blend of ethanol into gasoline (the standard fuel today) is about 10.
In 1990, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to allow E10 a waiver – in other words, Congress gave EPA the authority to allow the use of E10 during the summer months. But we’re still waiting on the waiver to allow E15 in the summer months, and the absence of that waiver is what makes E15’s movement into the marketplace so complicated.
By the way, the RVP of E15 is actually lower than E10 and straight gasoline.
So, Santa, I’m not sure if you understood all this, but we could really use that waiver in our hands on Christmas Eve. The world stands to benefit from cleaner air, and consumers will definitely enjoy the extra cents per gallon in their pockets.
1. Illinois corn farmers are growing field corn, not sweet corn.
I know this is confusing – but 99% of the corn grown in Illinois is not the corn you eat on your dinner table. That corn is sweet corn, bred for its sugar content so that it tastes so amazing! The corn we grow in Illinois is field corn (or dent corn) that is bred for starch.
Field corn is a grain. Sweet corn is a vegetable.
2. Illinois planted 88 million acres of field corn and 555,000 acres of sweet corn.
We also grew 13.6 billion bushels of field corn compared to 137 million bushel equivalents.(Equivalents because sweet corn is weighed still on the cob so we have to remove the cob to make them comparable.) And the crop value of Illinois field corn is $49 billion – considerably more than sweet corn’s $1.02 billion value.
Sweet corn is shorter, has larger tassels visible, and is often a lighter green. Field corn is taller, has smaller visible tassels, and is darker green. We harvest sweet corn in the milk stage in the middle of summer. We harvest field corn in the fall when the plant starts to die and the corn kernels dry up.
4. Illinois is in the top five states in ag cash income and crop cash receipts.
In English, this is code for the Illinois economy is built on ag. It’s one of our top industries. Illinois is the number 2 corn producer (behind Iowa), the number 3 ethanol producer, number 2 in pork production, and the largest exporter of corn in the country!
5. Most of the corn grown in Illinois is exported out of the state.
In Illinois, 47 percent of the corn is exported out of the state. Of the remaining corn, 27 percent is made into ethanol, 21 percent is used for processing (corn plastic, high fructose corn syrup, etc), and 5 percent is used to feed cows, pigs, and chickens.
Of that 27 percent used for ethanol, 1/3 is sold as a by-product of ethanol production that makes an excellent livestock feed. So some of the ethanol corn is actually used twice – by the ethanol industry and the animal agriculture industry.
6. Want to know more? Follow us on social media!
Sabrina Trupia is the Research Director for the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) in Madison County and has been conducting research and learning more about ethanol at NCERC since 2009.
NCERC is located at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville and is the only center of its kind in the world. It is the only facility in the world at which corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, advanced biofuels, and specialty chemical research is conducted simultaneously.
From petri dish to intermediate and pilot scale, NCERC is fully equipped with the technology and expertise needed to meet any research or technology validation needs – and Sabrina gets to oversee all of it.
Lindsay: What are your primary responsibilities at NCERC?
Sabrina: I am the principal scientist in all client projects, project lead in fermentation laboratory services, and grant-funded lab research projects, in charge of laboratory quality control, safety and methods.
Sabrina: One of them!
Lindsay: What do you love most about your job?
Sabrina: I love that we study ways of utilizing agricultural products to make the world a better place. Also, because of the variety of projects we do, there is always a lot to learn and it is a good place to apply one’s scientific creativity.
Lindsay: What skills/education do you believe have helped you to be successful?
Sabrina: I do have a PhD in Chemistry, but I think that the skills that have helped me most to be successful are my flexibility and curiosity. I am always looking to improve my understanding of the processes that we study and I am always looking for cutting-edge solutions.
Lindsay: How did you land in this job? What was your path or journey to this career?
Sabrina: I came to NCERC in 2009, after working in the biodiesel/anaerobic digestion fields in the Northeast. Ethanol was one of the biofuels that I was also interested in and was looking to expand my portfolio of bioenergy knowledge, so when I heard of the opening at NCERC I immediately applied. I think it’s has been a very good mutual relationship.
Lindsay: Based on your experiences, do you think young people today should be considering careers in agriculture?
Sabrina: I definitely think that agriculture careers are an excellent career choice for young people, because agriculture is of paramount importance in our world and whatever their discipline, understanding the importance of agriculture can only make ag better.
Less than 83 days remain until the United States determines who will lead the country for the next four years. A new administration means the roll-out of new programs and legislative agendas. Therefore, it’s important to know for what these individuals stand, not just for what makes them famous (or infamous for that matter). The positions that candidates take now on such issues as agriculture can have impacts decades later. That’s why farmers must take a look at how or if the candidates prioritize agriculture.
For this first edition, we’ll start with the major party candidates, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump. The remaining independent party candidates will be covered in a later post.
(Sorting method: Candidates are not divided by preference. Last names are sorted alphabetically.)
Secretary Hillary Clinton – Democratic Party
Secretary Clinton has a direct connection to farming communities in her work with constituencies in rural, upstate New York. In August 2015, Secretary Clinton rolled out a plan to revitalize rural communities. While some points do not speak directly to farming, the emphasis on revitalizing rural towns, which are largely farming towns, would likely boost the agriculture economy. Within this plan, Secretary Clinton supported providing government subsidies for farmers that are struggling and helping the next generation of farmers with funding, education, and mentoring for “aspiring farmers and ranchers.”
Secretary Clinton also supports the expansion and use of renewable energy sources, including biofuels. She seeks a strengthening of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and actively opposes the EPA’s cutting back of already-established target blending levels.
On GM foods, Secretary Clinton supports a mandatory labeling program, citing the consumer’s right to know. Yet, in those same remarks, she upheld sound science and the need for GM seeds, particularly in populations that are drought-resistant.
Current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack endorsed Secretary Clinton in 2015.
Donald Trump – Republican Party
In 2015, Mr. Trump gave explicit support to the RFS in order to achieve energy independence from other nations. The federal program has been critical in expanding markets for renewable fuels such as ethanol.
Mr. Trump supports biotechnology and GMO foods and dispels the need for right-to-know labeling mandates. This comes in contradiction with a now-deleted tweet on the candidate’s infamous Twitter feed: “Too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the brain?” The comment was originally made by a Nevada businessman. Mr. Trump later claimed it was an intern that re-posted the remark.
The candidate is also infamous for his plans on immigration reform. However, some have argued that his would decrease workforce numbers in agriculture significantly. The American Farm Bureau Federation noted that the ripple effects of deportation could be decreased production, increased food prices, and a drop in net farm income.
On August 16, 2016, Mr. Trump’s campaign announced that he has formed an agricultural advisory committee composed of several governors, including former 2016 GOP candidates Rick Perry and Jim Gilmore, and lawmakers. We should expect that more concrete agriculture solutions will come from Mr. Trump and his new brain trust in the following weeks.
Trade – A Hot Button Issue
Both presidential candidates are against current free trade agreements, specifically the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a wide-reaching, multi-national deal that has been a major focus of President Obama’s remaining time in office. The current White House administration proclaims that the “past seven years have represented the strongest period in history for American agricultural exports…totaling $911.4 billion.” Agriculture exports increased from $56 billion in 2000 to $155 billion in 2014, per the USDA. Clearly, farmers have a major stake in free trade with foreign nations. Aside from the issues that come from working with nations on a case-by-case basis (e.g. lack of multi-national support could reduce leverage and ethos to produce more efficient and effective deals), United States agriculture would fall victim on a financial level as they might severely scale back commodity exports, even just during negotiation of new trade deals.
This review is not completely exhaustive but can hopefully give a clearer picture on how either candidate would influence the future of American farmers. It’s important that we choose someone who clearly stands in solidarity with the modern farmer.
When you are about to purchase a product at the grocery store, what things do you normally think about before you buy it? Is it a good price, is it locally grown, and is it environmentally friendly? These are questions as consumers we ask ourselves on a daily basis.
Ethanol actually answers all of those questions that people consider to be important moral purchasing decisions.
It’s Priced Right
One gallon of ethanol is actually cheaper than one gallon of gasoline according to the Renewable Fuels Association. This means that a gallon of gasoline containing ten perfect of ethanol (E10) is virtually cheaper than a gallon of conventional gas. In 2010, a study showed that utilizing over 13 billion gallons of ethanol actually reduced the prices of gasoline by about 89 cents per gallon. This means that a typical American household actually spent 800 dollars less in gasoline in 2010. Also, an increase in the use of ethanol also decreases the demand for oil and the market prices. It is also a tremendous source of octane and it is much more valuable and cheaper for refiners compared to other sources of high-octane.
It’s Produced Locally
Ethanol brings more than just the agriculture industry in America together. It brings local farmers, environmental leaders, automobile manufactures, and economic and industry leaders together to achieve a common goal. The production of American-made ethanol serves a vital purpose of helping us to not be dependent on imported foreign oil. There are also other materials that can be utilized in the process of making ethanol such as specialty energy crops such as algae, forestry waste, urban waste, etc. Not only farmers can contribute to this American-made effort, but as a consumer yourself, you can get involved in locally produced ethanol as well!
It’s Environmentally Friendly
Ethanol is a renewable fuel. Compared to conventional gasoline, ethanol reduces greenhouse emissions by 59%. If you drive a flex-fuel car, utilizing higher blends of ethanol-enhanced gas can assist in preventing greenhouse emissions even more! By utilizing American-made ethanol we are already replacing 661,000 barrels of imported oil. This prevents and decreases the amount of oil spills each year. By already utilizing the E10 standard that is served in a majority of gas stations throughout the country, ten percent ethanol currently decreases emissions that is equivalent to removing 7 million cars off of the road.
Ethanol should be what every consumer wants right now. It fits the mold of the moral and ethical decisions we make on a daily basis. Next time when you go to fill up the tank, remember that ethanol is a consumer-friendly resource that will bring Americans closer together.
University of Illinois
When I pull into the gas station I am normally rolling in on fumes just hoping I don’t run out of gas. I pull into the nearest possible pump and begin fueling. Normally I am in such of a hurry that I don’t take time to stop and look at what I am actually putting into my vehicle. Turns out, it may be more than just fuel. It is a fuel blend that may be doing more than you think… ethanol. Here are five things you may not have known about ethanol in your fuel.
- High Octane
You may be asking yourself, what does high octane mean? I myself was unsure of what it meant until I researched it in further detail! According to the Federal Trade Commission, octane ratings are a measurement of the ability of gasoline to repel engine knock, which is a rattling noise resulting from a premature ignition of a condensed fuel-air blend in one or more cylinders. Ethanol happens to be considered an octane-enhancing additive. E10, which is a ten percent ethanol blend in gasoline, happens to be offered in all grades of gas and has the ability to be used in most models of vehicles regularly.
- Low Cost
Ethanol is not the only high-octane enhancer that has been used. Aromatics have similar high-octane enhancers compared to ethanol and have been used in many blends of gas in the past. Although, aromatics are a more expensive commodity as compared to ethanol. In 2013 an aromatic called benzene was the highest prices aromatic, but has since disappeared in early 2015. According to AgFax, a study was done that showed that purchasing ethanol, as a high-octane blend, was cheaper than the average price of three high-octane aromatic enhancers.
Ethanol is considered a renewable fuel. It is made from a wide array of plant materials commonly known as biomass. One industry that specifically benefits from ethanol is corn production because corn has high starch content. Nearly 40% of the U.S corn production is being used for the ethanol industry. Utilizing these ethanol blends in today’s gasoline is a successful way to oxygenate gasoline and reduce air pollution.
- American Made
Many ethanol production plants are located in the Midwest because there is a large majority of corn production in the Midwest. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture about 90% of ethanol is transported by train or truck while the remaining 10% is traditionally transported by barge. Therefore, a large majority American Made ethanol remains within the United States for gasoline blends such E10 or E85.
- No wars
Because Saudi Arabia and the Middle East is a large producer in the production of petroleum, this causes great conflict with buying and importing into the United States. Often prices are extremely high. The advantage of American made ethanol is knowing where it is coming from. We are extremely independent in the production of ethanol, which gives us advantages both from an economic and environmental standpoint.
Next time you stop to fuel up… consider that you are putting more than just regular fuel in the tank. You are putting in a blend that is so much more.
University of Illinois
I’d be lying if I said that I’d never heard THIS question before. Why ethanol? What’s the point? Why is our government pushing it?
1. Our government isn’t pushing it.
There’s actually no mandate for ethanol, despite everything you’ve ever heard in the media and the internet. The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) does not mandate the use of corn ethanol or any other type of ethanol. The RFS does require that oil companies blend increasing volumes of renewable fuels, but does not specify the type of renewable fuel. Corn-based ethanol has been ready to take on the increasing demand for renewable fuel and was well-poised to grow, when other types of renewable fuel just aren’t there yet. They are more expensive to produce and don’t net nearly enough volume to meet the renewable energy requirements.
2. What’s the point? High octane, low carbon fuel.
It’s good for the environment and it’s good for your car. Auto manufacturers like it because it provides the power they need for the features you want, while also meeting the environmental requirements the government and the public has asked for. And it’s cheaper than gasoline and many other options.
3. Why ethanol? It makes sense.
Forget everything you’ve heard about ethanol. Forget the “energy balance” argument (which isn’t true). Forget the “bad for the environment” argument (which isn’t true). Forget the “heavily subsidized” argument (which isn’t true). Forget the “food vs. fuel” argument (which isn’t true).
Ethanol is a great, environmentally friendly, high octane fuel that makes sense for our country. And as a bonus, it is Made in America and creates economic activity for rural America.
We’ve got some great photos in the IL Corn library – photos that speak volumes about what we do and who we are as an organization as well as who the farmers are that we serve! This week, we’ll feature a few of those photos as well as share the lessons you can glean from them!
What it means to drive a Flex Fuel vehicle
1.This is a photo of a Ford F-150 Flex Fuel truck that one of our board members currently drive. Flex Fuel means the vehicle can run on an array of combinations of gasoline and ethanol. The blends you will most likely see at your local fuel station range from E10 to E85. This acronym indicates the percentage of ethanol blended with the gasoline, 10% to 85%.
2.What is ethanol? Ethanol is an alcohol made from renewable resources such as corn and other cereal grains, food and other beverage wastes and forestry by-products. The corn-based substance is added to gasoline to reduce oil imports, reduce emissions, increase performance and reduce overall costs of transportation fuels.
3.Illinois Corn supports higher blends of ethanol in our gasoline because the higher blends create a higher demand of corn ethanol. Ethanol is made in the USA. Because ethanol is homegrown, every time you purchase it, you are buying local and supporting our farmers right here in Illinois.
4.One bushel of corn produces 2.8 gallons of ethanol in addition to several valuable food and feed co-products. Using only the starch from the corn kernel, the production process results in vitamins, protein, corn oil fiber and other by-products that can be used for food, feed and industrial use.
5.Ethanol is also cleaner burning and environmentally friendly. It reduces pollution risks for the environment and since ethanol has cleaner emissions, there are less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are responsible for climate change.