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Purdue professor says ethanol consumption has its limits

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Indiana’s dozen ethanol plants may struggle to find buyers of their corn-based fuel down the road.

The country simply won’t be able to consume more ethanol than is currently being produced, said Wally Tyner, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University.

Tyner just completed a study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics that concludes the United States is at the “blending wall,” or the saturation point, for ethanol use.

His findings don’t bode well for expectations under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires increasing renewable fuel production to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
 

otb-main-1col Indiana has 167 pumps dispensing E85 ethanol, according to the state’s Office of Energy Development. (IBJ File Photo)

Last year, 13 billion gallons were required—an amount Tyner concluded is the limit for consumption based on current infrastructure. Not only are there not enough flex-fuel vehicles that can burn the 85-percent ethanol blend, but there aren’t enough pumps out there.

“Even if you could produce a whole bunch of E85, there is no way to distribute it … . We would need to install about 2,000 pumps per year through 2022 to do it.”

Last year, federal regulators, in an effort to increase ethanol use, OK’d the blending of additional ethanol into ordinary gasoline for vehicles 2007 and newer: to 15 percent from the current 10 percent. But gasoline stations aren’t likely to make the expensive investment in new pumps to handle the more corrosive mixture anytime soon.

Last month, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in an attempt to block the higher concentration. The automaker group, along with boat and power-equipment makers, has warned that the higher concentration for non-85 vehicles could harm engines. However, it’s worth noting the AIAM trade group consists mostly of Japanese and Korean automakers, which have not built as many E85-capable vehicles as have American-based automakers.

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  1. John, unfortunately CTRWD wants to put the tank(s) right next to a nature preserve and at the southern entrance to Carmel off of Keystone. Not exactly the kind of message you want to send to residents and visitors (come see our tanks as you enter our city and we build stuff in nature preserves...

  2. 85 feet for an ambitious project? I could shoot ej*culate farther than that.

  3. I tried, can't take it anymore. Untill Katz is replaced I can't listen anymore.

  4. Perhaps, but they've had a very active program to reduce rainwater/sump pump inflows for a number of years. But you are correct that controlling these peak flows will require spending more money - surge tanks, lines or removing storm water inflow at the source.

  5. All sewage goes to the Carmel treatment plant on the White River at 96th St. Rainfall should not affect sewage flows, but somehow it does - and the increased rate is more than the plant can handle a few times each year. One big source is typically homeowners who have their sump pumps connect into the sanitary sewer line rather than to the storm sewer line or yard. So we (Carmel and Clay Twp) need someway to hold the excess flow for a few days until the plant can process this material. Carmel wants the surge tank located at the treatment plant but than means an expensive underground line has to be installed through residential areas while CTRWD wants the surge tank located further 'upstream' from the treatment plant which costs less. Either solution works from an environmental control perspective. The less expensive solution means some people would likely have an unsightly tank near them. Carmel wants the more expensive solution - surprise!

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