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State Ethanol Mandates Inching Ahead

States with Renewable Fuels Standard initiatives. Dark green are states where the law is enacted; light green are in legislative process.

Last year, Minnesota took the lead on calling for every state to take steps toward use of at least 10% ethanol in gasoline (an E10 blend) by 2010. (Minnesota currently requires E10 blends and has instituted an E20 requirement by 2013. (Earlier post.)

Although some states are heeding the call, progress has been slow. Hawaii may join Minnesota on April 2 as the second state in the US to require E10, according to the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

Montana passed an E10 requirement last year, but it will not go into effect until the state has produced its own ethanol at a rate of 30 million gallons per year for a period of at least three months. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, there are no major fuel ethanol plants currently in operation in Montana.

The Idaho House of Representatives killed that state’s ethanol initiative after it had been passed by the Senate. But legislatures in Washington state, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, and Iowa have all offered bills meant to establish renewable fuels standards in their states.

When our public officials don’t take the lead on the national level, the states almost have to. It’s that important to rural states and what happens to rural development.

I would like to think that it’s only a matter of time for any state that has a large ag sector to pass renewable fuel requirements. It’s too good an opportunity to miss. The jobs and economic impact make an immediate difference to the communities where they locate. South Dakota just came out with a study that shows their ethanol industry has a one billion dollar annual impact in the state. For a state with the (population) size of South Dakota, that’s huge.

—Ron Obermoller, Minnesota corn farmer and ethanol and biodiesel producer

The federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 institutes a Renewable Fuels Standard that starts at 4 billion gallons in 2006 and increases to 7.5 billion gallons in 2012—a figure that would represent about 3.5% of projected total gasoline and diesel consumption by that year.

State Renewable Fuels Standards
State Level Date Enacted
Minnesota E10
Hawaii E10 2006 Yes
Montana E10 When state achieves min. prod level Yes
Washington Ethanol: 10% total sales
Biodiesel: 5% total sales
When state demonstrates sufficient in-state production. No
Colorado E10
Illinois 10% of total sales
15% of total sales
Iowa 25% of total sales 2015 No
Kansas E10
2010 No
Missouri E10 2010 No
New Mexico E10
2009 No



Forgive the dumb questions, but...

let's say I'm driving cross country in my standard (not explicitly flex fuel) gasoline fueled vehicle. I pull over for gas in Minnesota. What do I see at the pump? What is the impact?


If it's E10 you shouldn't have an issue, because almost all cars on the road (at least recent models) can handle up to 10% ethanol. If you don't have flex fuel and you get E20 you might corrode your engine.

James (UK)

This is a good way for America to improve its terms of trade. Reduce demand and therefore price for oil of which it is a net importer, and increasing demand and therefore price of agriculturally products of which it is a net exporter.


How is Hawii producing ethanol? Pine-Apples?



Most likely sugar cane. They do have the right climate for it.



some follow up on malaysian palm oil biodiesel:

Adrian Akau

Hawaii will be shipping in ethanol from Jamaica where it will be produced from sugar materials supplied by Brazil. Hawaii no longer has sugar plantations.

Adrian Akau
Pahala, Hawaii

Rafael Seidl

Minnesota's philosophy is similar to the one being implemented in the EU (except UK & Sweden): mild blending all of 100% of the fuel rather than a new distribution infrastructure for a new specialty fuel. The impact of mild blending is immediate and helps the fuel production industry innovate and achieve economies of scale (e.g. cellulose ethanol). The quantities available are still far below 10% of total gasoline consumption in the US, so this strategy can be pursued for quite some time.

Stomv -

Modern elastomers for fuel hoses, seals etc. should handle 10% ethanol (aka E10) without problems, but check with the manufacturer/dealer to be certain this applies to your vehicle. If not, there are usually retrofit kits available. In states that require ethanol blending you probably won't be able to buy pure mineral gasoline any longer. Biodiesel is composed of fatty acids rather than alcohol, so the generally tolerated blend level is lower (B5 = 5% biodiesel).

Detroit has been delivering vehicles with enhanced fuel system elastomers that can support ethanol blends as high as E85. Check here

if your vehicle is among them.


Peterson -

IMHO it was inappropriate to advertise your service in this forum. Moreover, there is no relation to this particular article on biofuels.


doesn't california have an e10 standard after they phased out mtbe, mike?


The main thing is to produce ethanol by the most efficient method and not rely on subsidies to farmers.
This is about energy independence, not cossetting farmers.
If they get this (and/or biodiesel) right, it will be a huge step foreward for the whole world, not just America.


You'd think California would, but it doesn't. Federal law requires the use of oxygenated additives such as MTBE and ethanol in gasoline in Southern California and the greater Sacramento area, which consume about 70% of the state's gasoline. The phase out of ethanol implemented in CaRGF Phase 3 means that gasoline in those areas would have to contain ethanol. (California has argued for waivers on the oxygenation requirement.)

In the rest of the state, refiners are able to choose whether or not to add ethanol to gasoline.

California state agencies, as part of the Bioenergy Interagency Working Group, are working to develop a state policy on biomass and biofuels.

C. Scott Miller

The California Bioenergy Interagency Working Group plan is an interesting read.

You can check out a synopsis at: or link to the first draft there.

Max Reid

in Brazil, all gasolene sold has 25 % ethanol, and not all vehicles are Flex fuelled.

So the tolerance limit 25 % and not 10 % as we initially thought.

Flex-fuelled vehicles cost just $500 more than regular vehicles and that cost can be easily recovered.

chris p

What has to be switched in a gasoline powered engine in order for it to run safely with ethanol? Or is it not possible

Bob Keenan

I have the same sort of questions as chris p about what needs to be changed in an existing car to make it at least E85-compatible/100% ethanol-compatible. Getting this information from car manufacturers is like pulling lions' teeth. I'm being stymied at every turn. Anybody have a good info source for this sort of thing?
bob k


This article has more information on plans for ethanol production from sugarcane, still grown on Kauai by G&R:

Hawaii also has sugar production at HC&S on Maui:


I have an '85 BMW 318i and would like to find info about retrofitting the engine to run as a flex engine; with ethanol or E85.
What parts are available and needed to do this?


for more info on ethanol, visit:


For more info on energy related topics, check out:


For more info on energy related topics, check out:


Just wanted to let readers and the author of this piece know that the Missouri Renewable Fuel Standard, a 10% ethanol standard for virtually all gasoline sold in the state of Missouri, will be implemented on January 1, 2008.


For deep inside daily updated news on ethanol industry, its technologies, laws and finance, visit:

Gene E

I find that using E10 in my truck actually costs me about 1.0 to 2.0 MPG, an amount far exceeding the price differential in those states that sell both "pure" gasoline and ethanol blended fuel. It is my understanding that conversion of corn into ethanol requires significantly more energy than is produced burning the ethanol. Seems like this is contra productive, except as a vehicle for subsidizing corn production.

Connie Quay

I would like to report that I have had nothing but problems since our stations in Oregon City started using E10 in our gas. Moisture is condensing into my gas and into my engine, cars run poorly, spark plugs corrode quickly have to be replaced three times sooner than normal, gaskets are wearing out sooner. I have to put gas treatment in at $7.95 per can just about every month to counteract the damage being done by this crap!! My cars are classics a 67 Mustang and a 66 Chevelle, they get better gas mileage than almost every new car out there ( or at least they did.......I don't get as good of mileage/gallon now either), I have owned and cared for them for 24 years and 21 years respectively. I am seriously thinking if this continues my cars engines are going to be permanently damaged. At the cost of $7,000-$10,000 per engine I will seriously have to consider suing the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture.

Jon B

I believe the E10 requirement in Oregon is responsible for a significant drop in mileage on some vehicles. I've experienced more than a 10% decrease in mileage since using E10 in a newer car(2006 outback). If this is the case I would actually use less petroleum if I ran pure gasoline.

Also, I read somewhere that it takes 10x the energy to grow crops than we get back out of them. Does this mean we are burning more fuel in tractors to grow the corn than the amount of energy we get back out?

I see ethanol as a fad that is unsustainable in the future. I also tend to lump biodiesel into this fad category with the exception of waste oils. Sometimes society has to go through several bad ideas before arriving at a good one.

As far as I can tell, the most promising technology will be plug-in hybrids. Unfortunately, I see economic slowdown being a major reason the U.S. will slow the rate of oil consumption. When this happens, ethanol will be more appealing as a drink than a fuel.

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