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Washington State House Passes Renewable Fuel Standard

The Washington State House of Representatives has passed a renewable fuel standard (HB 2738) that mandates 2% minimum annual sales of biodiesel within that state, and a minimum 2% ethanol content for all gasoline sold in the state.

The legislature opted for the 2% sales standard for biodiesel rather than mandating 2% content in all diesel sold out of concerns for possible fuel quality issues such as those that occurred in Minnesota following that state’s enactment of a 2% biodiesel content requirement for all diesel (earlier post).

The bill is designed to boost in-state production of renewable fuels, and the bill ratchets up the minimums once the state has the proven ability to meet lower tier biodiesel and ethanol requirements. For biodiesel, the sales requirement climbs to 5%; for ethanol, the minimum content climbs to 10%.

The bill also calls for the adoption of ASTM, NIST and federal biodiesel fuel quality standards. If a conflict exists between federal environmental protection agency standards, ASTM 14 standards, or NIST standards, the federal environmental protection agency standards take precedence.

The bill provides for the establishment of a fuel testing laboratory (or a contract with a third-party lab) as well as an advisory committee to advise on implementing or suspending the minimum renewable 32 fuel content requirements.

If passed by the Senate, the requirements would take effect 1 December 2008.



Dave Zeller

Everytime someone pushes for use of ethanol and biodiesel, they always push for Government mandated (coerced or forced use!)programs that ALWAYS involve subsidies where companies who spread the most cash around the statehouse get to skim the most benefits.

Why can't the so-called biofuels survive and prosper on their own in a free market? The reason is because they require huge inputs of petroleum to make them. For example, it takes the energy equivalent of two gallons of diesel fuel to make one gallon of ethanol. In other words, for every gallon of ethanol we do not produce, it means we import one less gallon of diesel plus save that much money in real terms.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is not rocket science; it's been around for over one hundred years. What amazes me is how people who should know better think that politics and arrogance can determine the outcome of the laws of physics and economics.


Hmmm, should I believe Dave Zeller or UCAL Berkeley...

"The UC Berkeley study, published in this issue of Science, deconstructed six separate high-profile—and contradictory—studies of ethanol. They assessed the studies’ assumptions and then reanalyzed each after correcting errors, inconsistencies and outdated information regarding the amount of energy used to grow corn and make ethanol, and the energy output in the form of fuel and corn byproducts.

It is better to use various inputs to grow corn and make ethanol and use that in your cars than it is to use the gasoline and fossil fuels directly. The people who are saying ethanol is bad are just plain wrong."


The $14B in subsidies we taxpayers give to big oil will make alternatives seem uncompetitive for a long time. If it wasn't for these mandates, we'd just stay addicted to crack until it runs out.

Dave Zeller

Hmmm......., have the Gee-Whiz Folks at UCAL Berkeley ACTUALLY built a pilot plant from which at the end of the day they have announced to the whole world,"We have produced a therm's worth of ethanol at a cost of 95% of a therm's worth of gasoline, and here it is!"

Yep, that's what I thought. For that matter, the State of California would NEVER allow a new chemical plant to be built within their state boundaries. When was the last time a new chemical plant was built there? Thirty-five or forty years ago?

Plus, there is a really bad problem with ethanol. It must remain an anhydrous product in excess of 97% pure alcohol (195 proof plus) in order to work in a spark ignition engine. Brief exposure to any moisture including vapor tends to result in absorption of water until the proof drops to around 180(only 90% pure alcohol)which will not work, resulting in poor drivability and damage to fuel system components.

In the late '70's and early 80's, Ashland Oil mixed large quantities of this goop in their gasolines in the Southern Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, and also West Virginia regions of their market and believe me, you couldn't drive any car without experiencing spark knock, and the carburetors used at that time usually had to be completely rebuilt about once every 6 to 8 months. I can only imagine how well the modern, very precisely made fuel-injection systems of modern cars would hold up under similar circumstances.


The problem of ethanol being hydroscopic ("moisture loving") is common to most organic liquids. Billions of pounds of hydroscopic liquids are routinely stored in tanks, transferred, shipped, etc. with moisture contents of 50 ppmv or less. 3% is equivalent to 30,000ppm.
As far as experience with ethanol goes, a good place to go is Brazil, in 2003 they had approximately 3 million cars running on "hydrated alcohol" which are likely as modern as the vehicles found in the US in the 1970s. Because Brazil has about 170 million people and little domestic oil, ethanol is vital to their economy.

If biodiesel and ethanol are going to take a large share of the market in NA, they are going to have to be increasingly derived from wastes and byproducts such as stalks, woodchips, rendering & meat plant wastes, etc.


$14B in subsidies to "big oil"? That's just propaganda. It's not a subsidy unless the government is actually writing checks directly to the company to keep it afloat. Oil companies pay taxes just like everyone else, in fact the U.S. has one of the highest corporate income tax rates among OECD nations. If you want to read about companies that are subsidized try Archer Daniels Midland.

I agree with Dave that free markets are better than mandates, as mandates can often encourage waste. Government funding should go to research to make ethanol naturally competitive, otherwise we'll just end up with more "feel good" solutions.


I also agree with Dave that free markets should ultimately dictate what happens with ethanol. However, there is so much incorrect information that is relayed to consumers on the topic the subsidy is still needed for the time being.

Dave, I'm not sure what information you were relying on for your strong ascertions. Have any of them actually built an ethanol plant?

Additionally, if you read the entire study I pointed out, the point is that although CORN ETHANOL only has a mild benefit (even still, why not do it if it still helps?), CELLULOSE ETHANOL can significantly reduce our petroleum consumption. All of your statements are seemingly based upon what will eventually become outdated production methods.

Also, thanks for your reference to some 1978 Chevy Monte Carlo's inability to run on ethanol. Oh, what a fine era for the American automobile! Wait, could those cars and their 2-barrel carbs even run well on gasoline?

Today's cars, and their complex engine management systems, allow them to more easily run on different fuel mixtures - not harder!

Charles Bensinger

What's all the fuss about ethanol? I operate and manage a triple biofuels station in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We sell about 50,000 gallons of E10, E85 and B20 each month, and have yet to experience a single complaint. We have 3 pumps selling Regular Unleaded and 2 pumps selling E10, but the E10 easily outsells the Unleaded, even though the two fuels are priced about the same. Our customers really like the E10 and some make their own custom blends by mixing the E85 and E10 together. My Honda Accord really likes an E20 blend which makes my 4 cylinder engine perform like a 6 cylinder. I've been running ethanol blends in it for almost three years now, and it runs better than ever at 200,000 plus miles. I also use the E10 in my '65 Ford Pickup, and it performs fine in 100 degree summer temperatures or 10 degree winter weather.

In New Mexico we make 30 million gallons/yr of ethanol from dry-land grown sorghum, but this year plans are afoot to begin construction on waste to ethanol plants that will use manures, woodwaste and municipal solid waste.

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