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Ford, Toyota, and other automakers say that using E15 can void warranties and lead to early engine death.  (Source: Team BHP)

GM is the only major U.S. automaker to support the plan.  (Source: AP Photo)
New proposal would allow up to 15 percent ethanol in fuel

Corn ethanol is dead, long live corn ethanol.  That's the message that the United States Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson seemingly sent when her agency proposed allowing blends of up to 15 percent ethanol at the pump.  The proposal comes just weeks after Congress repealed the $5.6B USD federal subsidy for corn ethanol.

I. E15: Killing Your Autos, One Engine at a Time

Automakers are outraged at the proposal.  Ford Motor Company (F) and Toyota Motor Company (TYO:7203) led the coalition of the unwilling.

In letters to House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming's ranking Republican member, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (Milwaukee - Wisc.), the automakers rip the plan, which they say will likely void vehicle owners' warranties.

While the EPA promises to use a special orange and black label at the pumps where E15 fuel is being vended, officials at Ford and Toyota fear that won't be enough warning for customers.  They point out that most gasoline engines aren’t designed to use ethanol, which can cause excessive engine wear and engine failure.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally has criticized the U.S. government's financial support of corn ethanol.  Mr. Mulally indicates that he would like to see the government instead exclusively support electrified vehicles.

Chrysler LLC also opposed the plan to allow E15 at the pump.  Writes Jody Trapasso, Chrysler external affairs SVP, "While Chrysler has been a strong advocate of renewable fuels, we have concerns about the potential harmful effects of E15 in engines and fuel systems that were not designed for use of that fuel."

In response to the letters, Rep. Sensenbrenner has fired off a letter of his own to Ms. Jackson at the EPA, warning about the engine damage and telling her, "In difficult economic times, consumers need to get more miles from a gallon of gas and extend the lives of their cars."

II. EPA: Problem? What Problem?

The EPA defended the proposal claiming that research by the U.S. Department of Energy showed E15 to be safe to run on engines produced after 2001.  They claim the DOE extensively verified "any increase would not have an adverse impact."

The statement continues, "The administration will continue to take steps, guided by science and the law, to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and increase our use of home-grown fuels."

Clearly the two sides don't see eye to eye here.  The automakers, who actually engineered the cars, say E15 will destroy engines of vehicles produced since 2001.  But the EPA and DOE claim to have secret insight that the automakers don't, arguing the vehicles will be just fine.

Besides Ford, Toyota, and Chrysler, the other dissenting parties included Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (ETR:BMW); Daimler AG (ETR:DAI)’s Mercedes Benz; Honda Motor Comp., Ltd. (TYO:7267); Hyundai Motor Comp. (SEO:005380); Kia Motors Corp. (SEO:000270); Mazda Motor Corp. (TYO:7261); Nissan Motor Comp., Ltd. (TYO:7201); Volkswagen AG (ETR:VOW); and Volvo Car Corp., owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Comp.

Noticeably absent among the protesters is General Motors Comp. (GM).  GM was the chief supporter of ethanol fuel vehicles.  Most of its lineup consists of FlexFuel vehicles, which can run on ethanol or gasoline.

The EPA may bend to the will of the industry -- after all, just weeks ago it cut the mandatory amount of ethanol in fuel blends to the lowest level in three years.

 



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RE: How about we...
By bigdawg1988 on 7/6/2011 10:28:44 AM , Rating: -1
Just playing devil's advocate here, but the main reason that they are pushing ethanol is to reduce dependence on crude oil. By pushing ethanol you force research into something that the automakers would not normally research. Hopefully someone will come up with a better/cheaper way to make ethanol. Then you reduce the oil dependence, which should also reduce the price as the speculators leave the market. We always talk about reducing our dependence on foreign oil (which we don't really use), but what are we doing about it?

Funny that everyone except GM has a problem. Could part of their problem be that it gives GM a little advantage? Is this part of the government's/GM's strategy to boost GM sales? We do own part of them. Maybe the other automakers think the government is trying to give GM an advantage just to make more money when they sell their share. Do GM flex-fuel vehicles have problems with seals, or require much more frequent oil changes?


RE: How about we...
By tastyratz on 7/6/2011 10:48:47 AM , Rating: 5
No,
The reason they are pushing ethanol is the corn coalitions are lobbying harder than the oil companies.

This is not for national independance, drilling in our own MASSIVE reserves would do that.

This is not for middle eastern dependence, we rely mostly on CANADA and very little on the middle east.

Ethanol requires a different a/f ratio and engines pushed to the edge can NOT handle this without a re-tune.

I don't really give a rats ass if the epa seems to be delusional in thinking engines after 2001 can handle this, stoichometric target has changed so this ethanol crap could leave us a full point off. This is not about ethanol and its corrosiveness to aluminum and older rubbers. This is about engines blowing and screwing owners of older vehicles.

I read a study in 09 (economy was better) about the AVERAGE registered vehicle age increasing from 9.2 to 9.4 years old. That means that half of those numbers exceed that and most likely the magical 2001 safe point the epa claims.

So tell me epa, what about the near half of cars on the road this is NOT safe for?

This is CRAP


RE: How about we...
By BSMonitor on 7/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: How about we...
By kattanna on 7/6/2011 11:34:31 AM , Rating: 5
which parts?

we do in fact get more oil from canada alone then from saudia arabia and iraq combined

heck we get almost as much oil from mexico as we do from saudi arabia

ftp://ftp.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_p...


RE: How about we...
By twhittet on 7/6/2011 4:25:04 PM , Rating: 3
What's your point? Last time I checked, Mexico and Canada didn't have to sell exclusively to us. Hell - I assume a US company could export if they chose to. As part of a global market, ANY changes in supply/demand/prices of oil can negatively impact our own prices at the pump. We are more dependent on middle-eastern oil than the % numbers would imply.


RE: How about we...
By gamerk2 on 7/11/2011 2:10:20 PM , Rating: 2
To be more correct, the price of oil is more a result of speculators then actual Supply/Demand problems.

I also note: It doesn't make any economic sense to use our remaining oil reserves while the price of oil is still "cheap". And I say that fully expecting peak oil to occur within the next decade. I say, save our reserves for when everyone else runs out of oil, then sell off at inflated prices. Could theoretically solve our deficit problem in one quick stroke...


RE: How about we...
By hanmen on 7/8/2011 2:07:16 AM , Rating: 1
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RE: How about we...
By Samus on 7/6/2011 11:34:22 AM , Rating: 5
The majority of corn used to make ethanol would be wasted anyway. We have a lot of corn. More than we know what to do with.

The real solution is to stop growing so much damn corn and grow something else. Or stop subsidizing farmers to grow a crop people don't want.


RE: How about we...
By NellyFromMA on 7/6/2011 11:57:40 AM , Rating: 4
Hush! The world needs MORE CORN!


RE: How about we...
By YashBudini on 7/6/2011 12:24:13 PM , Rating: 5
Corn has like the lowest nutritional value of any grain going. And clearly, we don't need to pay people to grow more.


RE: How about we...
By AssBall on 7/6/2011 1:43:28 PM , Rating: 4
Cattle ranchers and livestock owners hate this ethanol crap too, because it rips into their profits (they have to grow corn for ethanol, a poor profit, instead of feed) and drives up the cost of beef for consumers.


RE: How about we...
By YashBudini on 7/6/2011 2:55:17 PM , Rating: 3
Microbreweries hate it as well. Consumers are getting doubley screwed. First, some farmers got paid to grow marginal crops like hops. Then they switched to corn, and they got to keep the original "marginal crop" subsidy.

Brings a whole new definition to the term "corn hole", doesn't it?


RE: How about we...
By sedoo on 7/7/2011 9:56:56 AM , Rating: 1
You would know, cornholer.


RE: How about we...
By SoCalBoomer on 7/11/2011 2:56:03 PM , Rating: 2
Which microbreweries?

Pretty much all of the microbreweries don't use corn as it's not really a "beer" grain. Traditionally, beer is brewed with malted barley and wheat - not corn. Corn was only introduced into our big American beer companies after the depression because it was cheap compared to barley and even wheat.

I don't buy beer from breweries that brew with corn, so if you have a list, that would be greatly appreciated! :D


RE: How about we...
By tastyratz on 7/6/2011 12:56:21 PM , Rating: 5
I don't think so, because demand dictates the market. We have a lot of corn waste that could be used for cellulosic ethanol but that isn't the case here. We have feed grade corn that is now not going to the animals but to ethanol production. The farmers were not growing more corn than consumed it's bad business. We are CREATING the massive corn demand with this b.s. ethanol push.

R.I.P. mbte, you are missed!


RE: How about we...
By sigmatau on 7/6/2011 1:36:35 PM , Rating: 2
I've heard that there are dozens of countries with mass starvation. Maybe we should send it there?

How about we stop sending them money, and instead send them food? Wouldn't you feel better if you gave a bum a sandwich instead of a couple of dollars which he/she later uses to buy drugs/alcohol?


RE: How about we...
By torpor on 7/6/2011 1:59:20 PM , Rating: 2
Something you should understand...this isn't the corn you buy in the store...sweet corn is a tiny percentage of what's grown. And all you get is 1 ear per stalk.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_corn

There are way, way more efficient uses of the land if you're looking to feed humanity.


RE: How about we...
By Zoomer on 7/6/2011 10:56:16 PM , Rating: 3
If field corn is not grown, other crops will be grown in its place. Wheat, soybeans, rice, sweet corn, tc.


RE: How about we...
By danjw1 on 7/6/2011 12:21:59 PM , Rating: 1
22%* of our imported oil comes from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Both are dictatorial regimes, with little to no concern about human rights. Sending money to either of these countries is not in our best interest. Both economically and for national security this is an issue. I, and many other veterans, understand this. Currently, I drive a hybrid. Unfortunately, an EV is out of the question for me, since, I wouldn't have anyway to charging it. I am hoping to change that in the next year.

* http://www.eia.gov/energy_in_brief/foreign_oil_dep...

Canada (25%)
Saudi Arabia (12%)
Nigeria (11%)
Venezuela (10%)
Mexico (9%)


RE: How about we...
By YashBudini on 7/6/2011 12:32:12 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
22%* of our imported oil comes from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Both are dictatorial regimes,

And China still has areas where they force government mandated abortion. Here not only do we not see any pro-lifers screaming or protesting we still give them most-favored-nation status. Try explaining that situation.


RE: How about we...
By sedoo on 7/6/2011 2:00:13 PM , Rating: 1
As a liberal you would think you would love that, don't all pro abortionists like you do ; ).

Actually Pro lifers do hate it, it's just morons like you won't acknowledge that.


RE: How about we...
By YashBudini on 7/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: How about we...
By YashBudini on 7/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: How about we...
By Iaiken on 7/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: How about we...
By Hyperion1400 on 7/6/2011 8:30:06 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder what the EPA would do if I sent them an invoice for the 3 sets of spark plugs I've burned through over the past 45k miles, the fuel injectors I need to replace, and the piston rings I need to have swapped on my GA16DE because of their mandate?


RE: How about we...
By NellyFromMA on 7/6/2011 11:54:07 AM , Rating: 2
It's more like the industry consensus is really that there is no lucrative advantage to investing in ethanol capable engines; short or long term. I actually wouldn't be surprised if somehow even GMs engines fail at faster rates as a result.

You are right, the point of this is to remove our dependence on foreign oil. This just isn't a wise way of even inching our way there...


RE: How about we...
By danjw1 on 7/6/2011 12:25:52 PM , Rating: 2
GM has gone with mostly ethanol capable engines because they sell a lot of cars internationally. Countries like Brazil, who rely heavily on ethanol, are a big market for them.


RE: How about we...
By sigmatau on 7/6/2011 1:33:19 PM , Rating: 1
Um not really. GM is towards the bottom of fuel economy compared to others. By heavily using the ethanol loophole they were able to increase their fleet's fuel economy greatly.

The ethanol loophole should be closing soon if not already. It allowed a car manufacturer to incorrectly state the fuel economy of a vehicle as a sum of the fuel economy on gas and ethonal. So if a truck got 15mpg on gas or 12mpg on E85, the manufacturer could state that the truck got 27mpg.

The fact that it costs less than $150 per vehicle to make the E85 compatible, it was a way for GM to NOT invest in hybrids or other fuel saving technologies.



RE: How about we...
By Zoomer on 7/6/2011 10:59:00 PM , Rating: 2
It also resulted in these vehicles having a much worse mileage than it would otherwise have been if it were not compatible with E85.

Bravo.


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