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The EPA claims that automakers are lying, and that E15 is perfectly safe for engines.  (Source: Hemmings Blog)

The EPA is trying to sneak E15 -- a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gas -- into the pump.  (Source: MPR News)

Corn ethanol gives worse gas mileage and, according to some studies, more air pollution than gasoline. It also raises food prices.  (Source: Dave Reede)
EPA: What could go wrong?

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials, testifying to Congress on Wednesday implied that automakers like Ford Motor Company (F) and Toyota Motor Company (TYO:7203) were lying when they said higher ethanol blends could corrode seals, fuel lines, and engine components, voiding warranties.

I. EPA -- We Know Better About These Cars Than the People Who Built Them

The EPA is convinced that it knows about the risks better than the automakers who built and tested the cars.

At issue is the question of whether the EPA can authorize E15 fuel -- a 15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline -- mix to be sold at pumps, with special stickers to warn customers.  E10 fuel, which contains a smaller 10 percent fraction of ethanol, is currently mandated by many states.  Approving E15 would clear the way for states to possibly mandate it as the exclusive fuel.

Margo Oge, director of the agency's Office of Transportation and Air Quality office, claims that her researchers conducted "extensive" tests using E15, which showed, "no unusual damage was found compared to control vehicles tested with normal gasoline."

Thus far General Motors Comp. (GM), who produces E85 (85 percent ethanol) capable FlexFuel vehicles, has been the only automaker to voice enthusiasm about the proposal.  The rest of the major U.S. and foreign automakers have complained that E15 could destroy engines in cars produced in 2001 or later.

Essentially, both sides are calling the others a liar in the dispute.

II. Ethanol Opposition is Solidifying

There are signs that opposition to the proposal is mounting in Congress.  Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) blasted the measure, stating it wasn't a "science-based decision".

Overall, while green technologies like cellulosic ethanol seem promising, the case for the U.S.'s current ethanol supply -- corn ethanol -- isn't particularly compelling.  Corn ethanol has been shown to raise food prices and delivers worse gas mileage (ethanol exclusive engines can deliver better mileage, but mixed engines deliver worse performance when burning ethanol).  

Some studies have also shown that it produces more polluting gases, such as nitrogen and sulfur-containing compounds, than gasoline over its life cycle, thus deteriorating air quality.  Similarly, it produces more carbon emissions than gasoline.

Still, farming states have managed to push corn ethanol onto the nation.  The move paid off for a lucky few -- corn farmers grew wealthy the recipient of billions of dollars in subsidies and the politicians they donated to were reelected. 

However, the good times for corn ethanol proponents appear to be coming to an end in the U.S.  Just weeks ago the U.S. Congress repealed the $5.6B USD in incentives for corn ethanol.



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Here's the issue I see
By sprockkets on 7/8/2011 10:59:11 AM , Rating: 1
A local investigation by my local news found lots of gas stations putting in MORE than 10% ethanol as is, so if they allow 15%, you may end up actually getting 25%.

It's a bunch of crap as it is.

If the EPA want to shove more ethanol down our gas tanks, fine, IF and ONLY IF, they will promise to pay for the damage to our cars and our lawn equipment.

I doubt they would without a lawsuit.




RE: Here's the issue I see
By Motoman on 7/8/2011 11:04:02 AM , Rating: 1
...I was not under the impression that the ethanol was injected into the fuel at the gas station - it's brought to the gas station in it's for-sale form.

Citation?


RE: Here's the issue I see
By tng on 7/8/2011 11:19:52 AM , Rating: 2
You are correct, blending happens before the fuel goes to the station.

I have seen similar TV reports from where I live that the "Up to 10%" ethanol is more like 12% in most cases. The problem that I had with the reports that I seen locally is that it seemed that there was barely any scientific method put into the testing.


RE: Here's the issue I see
By EJ257 on 7/8/2011 1:38:49 PM , Rating: 2
Is that because the ethanol settles out of the fuel so when new batch of fuel comes it's 10% ethanol but its mixing with fuel left over in the tank that is over 10% ethanol? Maybe someone could try to get a sample from the fuel truck.


RE: Here's the issue I see
By RU482 on 7/8/2011 1:34:33 PM , Rating: 2
I beleive there are two ways it can be done. The old way is to have it pre-blended at the distribution site. The newer way is to utilize a blend pump at the gas station. This way, the station only has to have two types of fuel delivered (87 and E85), but they can sell any mix of ethanol between 0 and 85%* (often, E85 is more like 70% ethanol, but that's a whole other issue)

There was a big to do not long ago about trying to allocate funds for grants so more fuel stations could install blend pumps.


RE: Here's the issue I see
By animekenji on 7/9/2011 7:54:16 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, but that is wrong. Gas stations currently get at least two grades of fuel delivered. (Sunoco may get 3 including the 94, but I'm not sure about that.) They get 87 and 93 and middle grades are blended from those. If the station runs out of either 87 or 93 then you cannot buy the middle grades, either.


RE: Here's the issue I see
By DerekZ06 on 7/10/2011 8:42:32 PM , Rating: 2
I worked in hyvee gas at one time. They had 4 separate tanks. Diesel, 87 unleaded gas, 89 10% ethanol blend super unleaded gas, and 93 Premium gas.


RE: Here's the issue I see
By RealTheXev on 7/11/2011 10:20:10 PM , Rating: 2
There are a (very) few stations left that get other gas delivered pre-blended to 89 as well (such as the one I work at, we're a weird freak location). The blending only pertains to octane rating, not Ethanol rating.

As for the fuel delivered to the station, we receive E10 according to the BOL's (Bill of Landing) we receive.

The common practice for C-store fueling stations is to have a tank (or a series of perhaps two tanks) with 87 blend, and another tank with 93, then to blend 88-92 octane gas from those (yes, some stations offer that many additional blends).

Some Sunoco stations sell 101 octane as well. I have seen 110 octane for sale at some high end drag race tracks.

Different stations/brads have different systems. If you want to see a great verity of different brands and systems, the greater Orlando area of FL is prob the #1 place I have been.

Also, feel free to ask the owner/operator questions about fuel. Some are very knowledgeable and will answer any questions you might have :)


RE: Here's the issue I see
RE: Here's the issue I see
By CZroe on 7/8/2011 11:25:35 AM , Rating: 2
I've encountered a bad blend before that stalled my new motorcycle a few years ago. If you allow 10%, there is an understanding that mistakes can happen and a bit more (15-20%) is likely to happen at some point and the engines need to tolerate it. Allowing 15% probably means we'll see 20-30% "mistakes" that will kill the cars.

The automakers have no reason to make this stuff up. What is their motive? This isn't the same as forcing higher fuel efficiency standards on them (CAFE) and discouraging sales with higher-priced vehicles. This is about all the vehicles that are already on the road. Also, to think that the EPA only cares about vehicles from the last 10 years is infuriating. Ever hear Toyota's estimate of the percentage of all non-crashed Toyota's ever made that are still on the road today? An awful lot of those are over 10 years old.


RE: Here's the issue I see
By Natch on 7/11/2011 11:27:25 AM , Rating: 2
Damage to the equipment, AND lower fuel mileage. Which is sort of ironic, since this administration is pushing so hard for auto makers to RAISE fuel mileage numbers on new vehicles!

quote:
Thus far General Motors Comp. (GM), who produces E85 (85 percent ethanol) capable FlexFuel vehicles, has been the only automaker to voice enthusiasm about the proposal.


Uh, yeah. Probably because they know that it won't hurt a flex fuel vehicle, that already has the seals and other components designed for 85% ethanol....so 15% probably won't hurt them much, will it?

One question I have, though. GM (as far as I know) doesn't charge extra for flex fuel engines in their vehicles. However, that's no guarantee that other car manufacturers will do the same. Does any think the current DC administration cares one bit about an added cost that could be passed on to the auto buying public? Is this really something they want to force on us, with the condition of the economy right now?


RE: Here's the issue I see
By Scabies on 7/12/2011 12:27:25 PM , Rating: 2
GM supporting due to FFV engine development, Obama supporting cornthanol (guess where they grow corn? and lots of it?).. does it surprise anyone that people are either making things up or ignoring facts in this situation?

The problem is easily distilled (pun). Ethanol combustion has water as a by-product. And guess what happens when water and metal are friends for a few years?


"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein














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