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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  The proposal comes just weeks after Congress repealed the $5.6B USD federal subsidy for corn ethanol.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: 2001+?
By tng on 7/6/2011 11:39:29 AM , Rating: 3
Almost feels like one side is being paid off by the farm companies and the other side is being paid off by the oil companies...
Well, just me, but I would side with the car companies on this one for a couple of reasons.

1. No automobile manufacturer wants their product's performance and reliability compromised in the real world. It may be ethanol's fault that their vehicles break down more, but for many potential buyers that wont matter at all.

2. While you may think that "The Big Three" may be in the pocket of "Big Oil", who would you trust more, a basically faceless government agency with hundreds of thousand of bureaucrats or a corporation that still has to respond to the public? I hate to use the word, but while you can boycott a Ford or GM product, how do you do the same to the EPA? How do you hold the EPA accountable for mistakes?

RE: 2001+?
By YashBudini on 7/6/2011 1:33:21 PM , Rating: 2
While you may think that "The Big Three" may be in the pocket of "Big Oil",

Ethanol has to do with the corn lobby.

It may be ethanol's fault that their vehicles break down more, but for many potential buyers that wont matter at all.

Libertarians call this mob rule. Have you've just made owners of older cars second class citizens?

How do you hold the EPA accountable for mistakes?

How do you hold the corn lobby accountable for theirs? I doubt any of these decisions came about without their influence.

RE: 2001+?
By Iaiken on 7/6/2011 2:24:12 PM , Rating: 2
Have you've just made owners of older cars second class citizens?

What's wrong with the government invalidating your past $30,000 investment?

RE: 2001+?
By tng on 7/6/2011 3:22:40 PM , Rating: 2
Ethanol has to do with the corn lobby.
Well my thinking on that was that automakers would be beholding to big oil, congress would be beholding to the corn lobby and the farm lobby. I would trust automakers before the US Congress.....

Libertarians call this mob rule. Have you've just made owners of older cars second class citizens?
Not really, since I believe in running a car until it dies. It really has less to do with mob rules and more to do with what sells. If the public perception of a automaker is bad because of problems caused by ethanol, most of the public will not make the distinction. How does a automaker fight that? They lobby against it in congress.

Yes I am sure that there is plenty of influence at the EPA by the corn and farm lobbies, and that is pushing this even though congress finally saw the light. I don't think that you can punish the lobbies, they are doing what they do legally (hopefully).

It is Agencies like the EPA that are not held accountable for the crap that they pass. We can hold the fire to the congress for the laws that they pass and they will sometimes repeal in response. An agency that passes a regulation has no such effective feedback, and does not report to the public.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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