Bill, a couple more facts to consider:
Some ‘tight (crude) oil' production, compared to conventional crude oil production, could have increased energy consumption directionally up towards 50%. This, however, is the extreme of economically feasible operations and only represents a very small fraction of total production. On average, U.S. crude oil production energy intensity overall has only increased by a couple percent in recent years (based on $100 per barrel average market prices).
The original ethanol lifecycle energy and fossil fuels/carbon balances used by most Federal Agencies (including the EPA) were develop by the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL); hired by the DOE. My past analysis shows that based on ANL GREET data the petroleum consumption for the ‘well-to-wheel’ (cultivation-thru-consumption) was 15% of total fossil fuels consumption. Natural gas made up about 60% (power+heat) and the balance of fossil fuels consumption (25%) comes from coal (power+heat).
The Brazil sugarcane ethanol producers are very likely currently claiming carbon reduction benefits for possible future efficiency/improvements. While this practice may be acceptable to the IPCC and EU, I do not believe U.S. Consumers should be paying for RIN’s that have little or no current carbon reduction value. For IPCC/EU carbon credit information, refer to a past TEC Post section: “Impacts of the Kyoto Protocol Carbon Trading Mechanisms”.
If indeed the co-product credit for DDGS is under estimated as you suggest, the EPA needs to address this issue (with ANL probably) in addition to the updated RFA conventional corn ethanol biorefinery efficiency updates.
Also, if E-30 is the most optimal gasoline blend for state-of-art ICE designs the Auto Industry needs to be much more engaged and aggressive to selling this factor to the U.S. Government (under CAFE standards possibly) and Consumers. Today only two grades are normally available in the U.S.; E-10 and E-85. Based on contact and personal experience, E-85 has not been too successful in U.S. FFV’s due to lower heat content, poorer fuel mileage, and higher overall cost per mile operation for average Consumers. A niche market has however developed for high performance/compression vehicles (on-/off-road). LDV’s that require 100+ octane normally use Nascar fuel or Avgas to operate efficiently/effectively. Those high performance vehicles that have FFV capabilities (fuel systems designed for high ethanol content fuels) can be much more economically operated on E-85 vs. alternative high performance petroleum gasolines.