Benefits from Mid-level Ethanol Blend Fuels Using Government Computer Models

DeFour Group LLC/Dean Drake

Currently, the market for corn ethanol is less than 15 billion gallons a year. A mid-level (20% – 30% ethanol) gasoline blend with the octane rating of today’s premium, if widely available, would allow automakers to increase the efficiency of future engines and reduce the cost of compliance with future fuel economy and greenhouse gas regulations. This, in turn, would expand the market for fuel ethanol and potentially lead to an increase in the amount of corn ethanol that can be used in gasoline.

Ensuring this new fuel becomes widely available will require government action similar to what was done in the 1970s to get unleaded gasoline on the market. Efforts are underway to convince the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take such action at its mid-term review of the 2017 – 2025 fuel economy standards. This will require an analysis of the costs and benefits of the new fuel and new engines robust enough to withstand severe criticism.

The best way to accomplish this is to perform the cost-benefit analysis on the same computer models used by the government. This project looks at the two computer models used by the government (EPA’s OMEGA model and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) VOLPE model) to determine which best meets our needs. The best model will be downloaded by Air Improvement Resource (AIR). AIR will then add the capability to model the costs and benefits of the new fuel under various scenarios.