By Scott Richman, RFA Chief Economist
The last year has featured a flurry of developments and claims related to ethanol. Gasoline prices hit record levels in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine; and even as higher-level blends such as E15 and E85 were priced at significant discounts to regular unleaded at the pump, ethanol’s beneficial effect on gasoline prices was not apparent to most Americans.
Climate change also received renewed focus. The need to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation was a key motivator for the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, but there continued to be noise in the media about the environmental attributes of ethanol.
Fortunately, recent research adds to the growing body of factual evidence about ethanol’s benefits. As will be discussed at the National Ethanol Conference on March 2, the results of the research are even better than expected.
I will moderate a panel discussion at NEC that highlights some of the newest research findings on ethanol’s economic and environmental benefits. I will present the findings from a study by Dr. David Zilberman of the University of California Berkeley and a team of international researchers about the impact of ethanol on gasoline prices. The upcoming report will show that the use of ethanol toward the Renewable Fuel Standard has reduced the retail price of gasoline significantly. Notably, this is the first major study conducted on the topic since market tumult occurred in 2020 as a result of pandemic-related restrictions.
Additionally, we are pleased to welcome panel speakers Stefan Unnasch, Managing Director of Life Cycle Associates, and Dr. Steffen Mueller, Principal Economist in the Energy Resources Center at the University of Illinois Chicago.
Mr. Unnasch will be presenting an update to a previous study that found that between 2008 and 2020 the use of biofuels under the RFS resulted in cumulative savings of nearly 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions. A sizable majority of the GHG savings were due to the use of ethanol.
Dr. Mueller will provide an update on a joint study by the University of Illinois Chicago and the Hormel Institute at the University of Minnesota regarding the human health effects of ethanol compared to certain compounds in gasoline. A literature review conducted as the first phase of the study determined that the use of ethanol-blended fuels results in lower emissions of toxic chemicals known to cause cancer than regular gasoline. Research has subsequently moved into the laboratory.
The National Ethanol Conference is the nation’s most widely attended executive-level conference for the ethanol industry. There is much to learn and experience at the NEC, where sessions featuring globally renowned speakers are interspersed with numerous networking opportunities to help the industry connect and collaborate. The 2023 event takes place February 28 to March 2 at Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando. For more information and to register, click here. Advance registration saves $100 per-person and ends January 28.