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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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They're both Wrong
By shabodah on 7/8/2011 11:48:58 AM , Rating: -1
First off, the EPA does want cars older than 10 years off the road. That's part of why they have pushed the oil change interval as far as possible, which is causing many vehicles to loose compression right around 100k miles.

But, the Oil companies are in bed with the Automotive companies, too, and the chicken needs to come before the egg.

The EPA should mandate that Automanufacturers sell a small amount of E85 only vehicles before they worry about changing up blends. So long as they have to compromise and engine's design to run on the cat-piss we call 87 octane gasoline, we cannot make it burn an alcohol fuel efficiently.

PS- You guys upset about the food thing need to chill out. While Corn ethanol is horrible idea, Hunger is in no way tied to ethanol production. We've been throwing away huge amounts of food for decades, and paying farmers not to plant crops at the same time. We can provide more food than we'd ever need, but no one wants to pay to ship it to the people that need it.




RE: They're both Wrong
By RU482 on 7/8/2011 12:21:44 PM , Rating: 2
amen on the food/fuel garbage

Also, living in Iowa, I'd love to buy an E-85 only car


RE: They're both Wrong
By NovoRei on 7/8/2011 12:44:52 PM , Rating: 3
Exactly. Couldn't be more precise.

In Brazil this was done with the program called "pro-alcool" or pro-ethanol if you prefer. But it was E100 fuel. E85 has the advantage of cold-start, whereas E100 needs a separate gasoline-tank(~2liters) to be mixed with ethanol on cold temperatures(~15C). Theres research to heat the engine/fuel and substitute this start-tank.

Today, and for a decade perhaps, we run on E25 gasoline. National and imported vehicles. I will not say that E25 does not damage the engine, but as you pointed, it would happen after 100k miles, way after.


RE: They're both Wrong
By Dr of crap on 7/8/2011 12:51:45 PM , Rating: 5
Sorry, but do you get a new car every 5 years??
Because I take ALL my cars over 100,000 miles with no problems. I have even gone to 200,000 with two of them.
Right now I have these mileage cars -
103,000
88,000
174,000
138,000
ALL run like new and use no oil.

The govt agencies and the govt might want to get older cars off the road, but this will not do it. There still has to be pumps for E10 for the older cars to use!

The problem with the cars not lasting is BAD maintanance, not E10 gas mix.


RE: They're both Wrong
By fic2 on 7/8/2011 12:53:14 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That's part of why they have pushed the oil change interval as far as possible, which is causing many vehicles to loose compression right around 100k miles.


I am not sure what you are talking about here. Every place I have gone to get my oil changed puts a 3,000 mile oil change sticker on my windshield. Even the dealership does this. According to friends they even do this with synthetic oil.

Oh, and my car is a '99 with 147k miles so it is not just for new cars.


RE: They're both Wrong
By shabodah on 7/8/2011 2:07:26 PM , Rating: 2
I do the same for my cars. But, according to the EPA and many manufactuerers, you don't need to change your oil until the "oil change" light comes on, and that can take as long as 15k miles to happen on standard oil. Personally, being a Service Manager at a dealership, I've seen many engines with no compression because of this at 100k miles. So, it seems the EPA forgets about how much polution it makes to build the car in the first place.

As far as E85 is concerned, I've seen engines that were not made as flex-fuel use it extensively, and, still running fine, get torn down well over 100k miles, and show less were and far less varnish buildup than engines run on gasonline.

So, it seems to me, that an engine designed to run on alcohol fuels, and getting proper maintenance should be better for the envirnment than the other alternatives. Especially when you take into the account the fact that the only reason there are studies out there showing issues with ethanol and emissions polution, is because the flex-fuel design is compromised to run on gasoline in the first place.


RE: They're both Wrong
By rudolphna on 7/10/2011 4:44:04 PM , Rating: 2
This explains a great deal. You obviously don't understand how oil works. As a general rule, most Conventional oil can be safely run 5-7k miles before its TBN (Total Base Number, the total amount of additives that counteract acidic combustion byproducts) is depleted. Synthetic oils, this varies greatly but usually runs anywhere from 7-15k, depending on the oil. For example, Pennzoil Platinum is well known to do easy 10k runs, Mobil 1 EP is easy for 15 to even 20k in some circumstances.

Obviously there are other components besides TBN, such as Flashpoint, viscosity, but generally TBN depletion is what the oil's "condition" is based on.

Most people should run their jiffy lube-changed cars at about6-7k miles. IF they get synthetic, they can safely extend that to ~8k miles.

And yes, this is the "Not true" synthetic oils. This is "Group III" oils which are heavily processed mineral oils, to the point where they are basically "synthetic". Not group IV (PAO) or Group V (Ester). PAO sucks at just about everything, and is worse than Group III. Group V is great at cleaning, but it's lubricity is a bit lower.

Group III is cheaper, and better overall than the "True" Synthetics.

Also, using E85 vs gasoline isn't going to affect "Varnish" and "wear". It's going to be a driveability concern, as the computer will not be programmed to run the mixture, and timing advance correctly.

Also, many cars still don't come with an oil change light. Honda does, and GM has the excellent OLM, which they spent a great deal of time and money programming to know when the oil actually needs changed, depending on how you drive, idling, temperature, and all that. It's rather impressive really. Ford does, but it's a generic (xxxx number of miles) timer basically.


RE: They're both Wrong
By SPOOFE on 7/8/2011 2:04:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You guys upset about the food thing need to chill out.

Why? It was a lie. It was sold as eco-friendly, when it's actually worse for the environment than not doing it at all.

[quote]While Corn ethanol is horrible idea, Hunger is in no way tied to ethanol production.[/quote]
It's perceived to be, and that's enough to kick off revolutions. If nothing else, the biggest country in the world bragging about wasting food on an even more wasteful fuel would piss off anybody that goes to bed with a grumbling stomach.


RE: They're both Wrong
By Targon on 7/8/2011 3:50:11 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see how it is the responsibility of ANY nation to feed the people of another nation. If a country can't satisfy the needs of its own people, then it deserves to fail. The biggest problem is that the US Government is BROKE, and is running at a deficit, with a large debt, so why should the government be spending ANY money on things that don't have a long-term benefit to the people of this country?

This means, if another country has a natural disaster, aid should come from individuals, not the government. If another country needs our help with a war, that country SHOULD pay us for expenses in some way, shape, or form, including paying us in oil and other natural resources. This attitude of "save the world" is why there is so much starvation in the first place, because starving people have a declining population, not an increasing population. Smaller populations take less resources to feed.

Now, those who are wealthy and want to help, then fine, they can help, but expecting the government to go even further into debt to save other countries without asking for payment is idiotic.


RE: They're both Wrong
By shabodah on 7/8/2011 4:22:18 PM , Rating: 2
It has been proven that corn ethanol is not environmentally friendly. However, that only makes logical sense, as growing corn itself, it not environmentally friendly. It is one of the worst crops a farmer could grow.

It really seems to me that someone in the government and oil industry wanted to prove ethanol as a failure, so everyone would stick with oil. There is NO BETTER example of how NOT TO DO ethanol than with CORN.


RE: They're both Wrong
By Bad-Karma on 7/8/2011 6:42:08 PM , Rating: 1
I wish the EPA would keep their hand out of my fuel tank. A couple of years back they demanded that all diesel be switched over to a low sulfur blend.

It's great that it removes a bit of Sulfur Dioxide from the exhaust but it slowly reeks havoc in a diesel engine. The Sulfur helps lubricate the rings and other internals exposed to the fuel cycle.

Now I have to not only pay more for the higher refined fuel but also have to put in an additive to add back the sulfur.

Newer diesel engines are Ok with the blend but anything older is being slowly junked. I have an uncle who runs a regional freight line in the North East, the extra additives eat into his profits, which of course then have to passed to his customers.

I think your right on the EPA wanting older cars off the road.


RE: They're both Wrong
By Targon on 7/9/2011 7:24:43 AM , Rating: 3
It's more than just a bit of sulfur dioxide that gets removed from the exhaust, but if you think about it, what's worse when it comes to pollution, sulfur dioxide, or carbon dioxide? All these people worried about CO2, but at least it isn't nearly as toxic to humans.

Lead was removed from gas back in the 1970s, because lead causes all sorts of problems for people as well. I do agree that the government needs to be a bit more consistent when it comes to the goals, either go all about fuel economy and get ethanol out of the picture, or if they insist on pushing ethanol(which gets worse fuel economy), then drop this CAFE crap.


RE: They're both Wrong
By animekenji on 7/9/2011 8:01:24 PM , Rating: 3
And look what they replaced the lead with. MTBE that has since been shown to contaminate groundwater and only a few drops of it can contaminate hundreds of gallons of water. Why should we trust the government now when they have failed so miserably in the past?


RE: They're both Wrong
By animekenji on 7/9/2011 7:59:40 PM , Rating: 1
Every acre of farmland used for ethanol production is an acre that is not being used for food production not to mention all the water that could be being used to irrigate food producing farms. Bio-fuels certainly do influence food prices whether you want to admit it or not.


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