The Supreme Court has cleared the way to start pumping E15 onto the market.  (Source: DigitalTrends)
E15 also expected to create higher carbon emissions, higher food prices

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a complaint filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the Alliance of Automobile ManufacturersAssociation of Global AutomakersOutdoor Equipment InstituteNational Marine Manufacturers Association, and the American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers, which might have challenged upcoming EPA rules which allow E15 blends (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline).

The decision upholds the District of Columbia’s Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that the complainants lacked the legal basis to challenge the sale of E15.

In the U.S. the government does not currently demand stations buy blended ethanol, however it constricts the supply of unblended gas by forcing refiners to buy "blending credits" based on the quantity of ethanol they blend in.  To meet upcoming quotas, refiners will virtually have to sell at least some E15 to stations and consumers.

While stations have been slow to adopt higher ethanol blends due to fear of consumer backlash, automakers fear that the decision to back the 15 percent ethanol blend will ultimately force refiners to start pushing E15 out onto the market.

Current prices of ethanol are around 29.66 cents per gallon less than gasoline [source].  But the threat of fines will likely force refiners to bite the bullet and starting pumping out E15, now that their appeal is dead.

E15 permeates and damages parts made of rubber, plastic, metal, and other materials in engines not specially sealed to allow the use of higher ethanol blends.  All automakers certify their vehicles for E10. Some automakers certify their vehicles for E15 use, but many don't. 

Chrysler Group LLC, Toyota Motor Corp. (TYO:7203), Nissan Motor Comp., Ltd. (TYO:7201), Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW), and Volkswagen AG (ETR:VOW) all warn customers not to use E15, saying it will void their warranty.  No ATV or motorcycle manufacturer in the U.S. currently approves of E15 use, according to The Detroit News -- using E15 in any standard motorcycle will void its warranty.

The nation's largest travel organization, AAA, has already warned that the results of allowing E15 to be sold at the pump will be disastrous -- millions of Americans may have their vehicles damaged and warranties voided.  AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet, comments, "AAA believes it is both premature and irresponsible to sell E15 to consumers while these issues remain unresolved."

But the EPA's perspective appears to be that Americans should ditch the bikes, ATVs, and older cars, and buy "green" sedans instead; and if you don't like that "tough".

The Renewable Fuels Association is pleased with that approach.  Its CEO Bob Dinneen commented SCOTUS ruling, "I am pleased that today’s Supreme Court action ends a long and drawn-out petroleum industry effort to derail the commercialization of E15.  The uncertainty created by this lawsuit has chilled commercial activity that would provide American consumers more affordable choices at the pump."

corn profits
Big corn is pleased with the decision. [Image Source:]

E15 is indeed more affordable, but in addition to the engine damage potential, it also gets significantly lower MPG than pure gasoline fuel.  Thus customers may not realize any savings; in fact they may even overall end up paying more when using E15 with compatible vehicles.

In addition to all the aforementioned issues, studies have suggested that going from the corn-field to fuel pump corn ethanol is an energy negative process, consuming more energy than it produces, and offering up higher life-cycle carbon emissions that standard gasoline.  And use of feed corn on ethanol has "accidentally" driven food and livestock feed prices upward.  The ethanol industry again, is relatively unsympathetic, offering the vague argument that corn ethanol preserves domestic security and feeds money into the U.S. economy.

Sources: Renewable Fuels Association, AAA, Detroit News

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