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  The proposal comes just weeks after Congress repealed the $5.6B USD federal subsidy for corn ethanol.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