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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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RE: They're both Wrong
By fic2 on 7/8/2011 12:53:14 PM , Rating: 2
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.

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