POSTED: SEP 16, 2008

Running out of gas? E15 could help.

Hurricanes Gustav and Ike have wreaked havoc on lives and property, but they have also seriously disrupted the supply of gasoline. Nearly a quarter of U.S. fuel production is shut down, and about 20% of U.S. refining capacity could be lost for months.

As a result, the average price for a gallon of gas has gone up to nearly $3.80 from $3.68, according to AAA.

In response, states are seeking and the government is granting temporary waivers for certain requirements for gasoline, essentially providing more flexibility to blenders in an attempt to help supply keep up with demand.

While officials wring their hands trying to tinker around the edges to free up more gasoline, a largely overlooked source of meaningful relief comes in the form of ethanol -- more of it, to be exact.

State and federal officials should look at increasing the percentage of ethanol allowed in gasoline from 10 percent up to around 15 percent. Even if a temporary measure, this would be an immediate solution to increasing the availability of fuel.

Why would E15 help?

-- Most importantly, ethanol costs significantly less than gas, so using more of it will help bring down the price of fuel to Americans who are reeling from an economy on the ropes.

-- E15 is substantially comparable to the E10 base blend that's already approved by the EPA and by the automakers for use in all vehicles on the road today.

-- E15 would work seamlessly in the existing retail infrastructure; in fact, many gas pumps are likely already approved by Underwriters Laboratories to dispense E15.

-- While refinery capabilities are stretched to the max today, U.S. ethanol biorefineries are capable of increasing output to satisfy the demand for more ethanol.

-- Motorists wouldn't be forced to use E15, but it would give some the choice to select a product that is less expensive than gasoline today. Consumers who prefer to use gasoline would still have the option.

If you agree, please share this message with others and encourage state and federal officials to consider E15 an option as the nation struggles to deal with the fuel supply in the wake of these hurricanes.

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