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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 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?

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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