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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: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By Alexvrb on 7/9/2011 12:09:12 AM , Rating: 2
You assume that Octane ratings will go up, because ethanol has a higher octane rating. But you're making a bad assumption. Octane ratings between regular gasoline and E10 didn't change. 87 is still 87, 93 is still 93, etc. Do you know WHY? Because when they blend the fuel, they take the ethanol content into account! So if they change to E15, they'll just use even lower octane gasoline, blended with more ethanol to bring the octane rating back to where it is today. In other words, no positive change for E15 over E10, and lots of drawbacks.

As far as E85 and higher compression ratios, that's all well and good. Except that if you FULLY optimize an engine for E85, you lose the capability to run E10/E15 of any octane. Even then, you STILL don't get as much energy out of a gallon of E85, especially in your comparison to 93 octane. Not unless you continue to use poor compression ratios (9:1? Really? An old cast iron pushrod motor could do that easily, let alone a modern engine) when comparing 93 octane to E85.

By inperfectdarkness on 7/9/2011 8:23:40 AM , Rating: 2
and if ethanol ratings don't go up with e15, then gas prices should plummet even further; because now they can include even crummier octane into the mix--and crummy octane (or rather heptane) is cheaper than good octane.

and let's be honest, 9:1 isn't 93-only. it's generally used for 87 octane cars. i just picked 9:1 as an example, because the vast majority of (naturally aspirated) gasoline engines currently in use are 9:1 compression.

By FITCamaro on 7/9/2011 11:54:33 AM , Rating: 1
The only cars that use 9:1 compression ratios these days are those that are supercharged or turbocharged. Any other engine these days is at least 10:1 if not higher. Engines like the LS7 are 12:1. My LS2 is 10.9:1. Even smaller 4 cylinder engines are around that compression.

Cars haven't been at 9:1 compression ratios since the 80s and early 90s.

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