South Dakota Farmers Union calls out General Motors on weak octane proposals

South Dakota Farmers Union
Farm Forum

HURON, S.D. — In a letter to General Motors Chair and CEO Mary Barra, South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke challenged the automaker on its claim that 98 RON (Research Octane Number) or higher gasoline was not feasible and called on them to look at their own historical position of identifying 100 RON fuels as the right fuel for the 2020-2025 time frame.

Sombke took issue with remarks by GM’s Dan Nicholson at the National Ethanol Conference last week where Nicholson said a 98 RON fuel was a bridge too far and cited numerous obstacles, all of which can be easily addressed according to Sombke.

With the Safe Affordable Fuel Efficiency (SAFE) rule currently being developed by EPA, the opportunity to raise the minimum octane standard and achieve significant mileage increases can be realized with a 100 RON/E30 fuel according to Sombke. Furthermore, he said the requirement that these fuels reduce carbon emissions is easily met with higher ethanol blends that are increasingly recognized as low carbon fuels. In his letter he cited previous positions of GM and other automakers that a 100 RON fuel in optimized conventional vehicles could provide a 7-percent mileage increase while reducing CO2 emissions.

“The internal combustion engine is going to be the primary propulsion technology for decades, and the octane in today’s fuel is increasingly toxic and polluting,” said Sombke. “Ethanol is the most cost effective and cleanest source of octane available and automakers need to join us in calling for higher blends, not lower.”

In his letter Sombke addressed a number of issues such as the ability of the industry to produce enough starch derived fuel, the emerging science showing improvements in carbon sequestration, and the ability to effectively distribute E30 blends.

He also cited the tremendous success of E30 tests and demonstrations such as the E30 challenge in South Dakota, and Governor Kristi Noem directing the state fleet to use E30. With millions of gallons sold and hundreds of thousands of trouble free miles logged, consumers are choosing this cleaner, efficient fuel mix, he said.

“We commend GM for being the first automaker to warrant ethanol blends, now it is time to help take the next step to doubling the current market for both corn and ethanol while helping themselves meet regulatory requirements.”