U.S. exploring fuels with higher ethanol content

WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Energy and other regulatory agencies are exploring the feasibility of gasoline products with a higher ethanol blend, a senior U.S. Department of Energy official said on Monday.

“We will be testing for E12, E15 and eventually E20 and working together with the Environment Protection Agency and others,” said Alexander Karsner, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

E10, a fuel with a 10 percent ethanol blend, is the fuel that most cars in the United States can run on. Some ‘flex-fuel’ vehicles can also handle both conventional gasoline and E85, a fuel that is 85 percent ethanol.

“We don’t have certified fuels beyond E10 in this country, except for E85, but by way of example in Brazil there is no fuel that is less than E22 as a mix and that is their gasoline product, before you even get to their ethanol product,” said Karsner.

“There is this need to alleviate some of the pressure from focusing exclusively on two product lines, E10 and E85, and trying to understand what can be dealt with in between,” he added, while speaking on the sidelines of a DuPont Co investor event.

Karsner also said that ethanol produced from corn and edible grain is not the long-term solution for ramping up production to the desired levels.

President George W. Bush has made it a goal to raise production of alternative fuels to 35 billion gallons a year by 2017.

This goal bets heavily on the development of such crude oil alternatives as cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel and bio-butanol.

Maximizing the use of E10 in the country is a priority, added Karsner, especially in the Southeast, where regulations limit the use of ethanol blended fuels.

“I think you’ll see substantial progress on issues of alleviating blend walls of E10 and potentially other blends in the next 36 to 48 months,” said Karsner.

Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Gary Hill