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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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Ethanol is our best choice
By Shinobisan on 7/8/2011 5:34:06 PM , Rating: -1
OK... so who exactly is writing these articles that are so obviously bent on slurring Ethanol? And... how much is BigOil paying them?

First, Corn based Ethanol does not raise food prices. That is a myth that the grocery industry created a couple years back to avoid their own blame. Corn is currently about $6.50/bushel. That's 56 pounds per bushel. So, one pound of corn costs 11 cents. That's right, your box of corn flakes that costs $4 and up actually only contains 11 cents of corn. Corn costs could double, and it would still be an insignificant number compared to what we pay at the store. So what is the cost from? Transportation, Packaging, Milling, government food regulations, profit. The biggest variable there is transportation. Just think about how much Diesel it take to move your box of corn flakes from the producer to your local store. 11 cents. Get real.

And who says that Ethanol produces more carbon emissions than oil? Say what? Let's think about this. Burning oil is like taking carbon out of a deep storage cabinet and letting it loose. It was buried, we dug it up, we burned it and filled the sky with it. Big clumps of belching black smoke. Now take Ethanol. It grew in the ground as corn.. .absorbing carbon from around it. We make it into Ethanol, which burns clean. Carbon goes back up into the sky - yes - but we use it again to grow more corn. Complete cycle. Green. That's how it works.

Also, think about this.
How many Ethanol spills have ruined the environment? How many oil spills?
How many of our young men have died to protect our corn fields? How many died to protect someone else's oil field?
Would you rather give your energy dollars to your local farmers? Or to someone who supports terrorists?

RE: Ethanol is our best choice
By FishTankX on 7/8/2011 8:00:38 PM , Rating: 2
I think a big part of the carbon argument about corn ethanol increasing CO2 is multipart,and i'll repeat what i've heard.

First, growing corn requires petroleum derived fertilizers in alot of cases. Probably not a huge contribution, but measurable.

Second, there is petroleum required to run the tractors, which is also a measurable contribution.

Third, and probably the most important, the fermentation and distillation process to produce ethanol from corn requires heat. This heat is usually derrived from coal or natural gas. Deriving it from natural gas makes no sense because natural gas, instead of being used to produce ethanol, could go directly into a CNG car (and the amount of energy needed to produce a gallon of ethanol is significant). From this article (I realise it's a biased source, take with a grain of salt) 1 BTU of coal creates 1.1-1.3BTUs of ethanol. Thus the coal burned in corn ethanol's production (steam,and drying the ethanol) is very close to the energy content of the ethanol produced.

Thusly, far from ethanol being carbon neutral, if produced under the current coal/natural gas regime,it's very close to being equal in CO2 production to gasoline, maybe even more!

"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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