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
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.