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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  The proposal comes just weeks after Congress repealed the $5.6B USD federal subsidy for corn ethanol.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 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.


"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher














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