Helping tell ethanol’s real story

by Dave Vander Griend, President of Urban Air Initiative

In football, when things are not going well, coaches are often heard to say “It’s our job to coach ’em up“, meaning we need to get them smarter!

In our world of ethanol, that certainly is the case as we need to get people smarter and “coach up” the public, media, and policy makers as to the real story about our product. Perhaps nothing is more important in this regard than the role ethanol can play in improving air quality and protecting public health, which is a core message of the Urban Air Initiative.

We know that gasoline is a toxic soup of pollutants and its harmful impacts are masked by EPA’s outdated models and error filled testing procedures. We also know that replacing the most harmful components of gasoline with ethanol can protect public health while providing superior engine performance.

But we can’t score a touchdown if they won’t let us on the field. Well, that is exactly what we face in regard to the blend wall and the policy roadblocks EPA has put in our way to keep higher ethanol blends out of the market. For ethanol to achieve its highest potential of being a source of clean octane we need to not only get on the field via the fuel pool, but we need the cars and engines to be allowed to use these higher blends.

Step one in this process is to dispel the myths and correct the misinformation that surrounds ethanol. On our website, Urban Air lays out the health problems connected to gasoline and explains how these issues can be greatly reduced by improving the quality of gasoline with ethanol.

In addition to the health benefits of ethanol, we are also addressing many questions regarding engine performance at our other website Both of these sites indeed will coach ’em up– Fix Our Fuel in terms of improving fuel quality and Fueling the Truth with engine and performance questions and answers as well as educational videos.

If the public, fueled by misinformation believes that ethanol presents a problem for everything from their beloved automobile to their lawn mower, we will continue to struggle to gain market share. Correcting information and setting the record straight through these types of accurate websites will help break down the blend wall.

But we are not going to truly see ethanol reach its full potential on volumes powering only lawn equipment or small engines. The Holy Grail is the 140 billion gallon per year motor fuel market and using higher blends in conventional vehicles. The innovative program Glacial Lakes Energy, with support from ICM and others is promoting the E30 Challenge. Residents in Watertown, South Dakota are running conventional automobiles — not flex fuel– on 30% ethanol blends to dispel the myth that we need specialized vehicles to run this clean, high performing fuel.

The emissions and performance data being collected will allow us to take the first steps in getting automakers and the EPA to acknowledge that a 10% or even 15% limit in conventional automobiles is a myth. We can achieve air quality benefits and meet ever increasing fuel economy requirements by taking advantage of ethanol’s low carbon and high octane qualities.

Many of you attended the Fuel Ethanol Workshop last month where UAI sponsored a panel of experts that confirmed everything we know to be true.  We clearly established that we have a public health threat on our hands. The good news is that a former General Motors engineering executive sang the praises of E30 as a means of meeting automaker criteria for future fuels and lowering emissions.

We will continue to “coach ’em up”. If information is power, then we have the high ground, and it is incumbent on us to spread the word about the dangers and health risks of emissions from today’s petroleum based gasoline. Whether it’s the alarming links to asthma and respiratory disease, or the even more alarming linkage to low birth weight, stroke and heart disease the data is there. And we will continue to “coach ’em up” on mid-level blends of ethanol, which is a practical, feasible solution that we can begin to use immediately without damage to engines or a sacrifice in power or performance.

So, all I can say is Put Me In Coach!!