House Ponders E15 Rollback Amid Risk of Engine Damage
July 1, 2013 7:05 PM
"Dirty" corn ethanol could soon be on the chopping block
Tom Buis, CEO of
-- a pro-corn ethanol lobby --
cheered a recent Supreme Court victory
over automakers and petroleum lobbyists who
looked to block the sale
, "Now that the final word has been issued, I hope that oil companies will begin to work with biofuel producers to help bring new blends into the marketplace that allow for consumer choice and savings."
Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) -- another top corn ethanol lobbying group -- echoes these sentiments. Even as automakers warn of dire engine damage, he
, "This is another example of oil companies unnecessarily scaring people, and it’s just flat-out wrong."
I. Corn Ethanol -- Good News or Bad?
But basic science suggests there may be more to it than that. In order to handle higher ethanol blends, engine and fuel system parts made of rubber, plastic, metal, and other materials in engines must be coated with special sealants to prevent
permeation of ethanol and degradation
. Older vehicles do not have that sealant -- so Mr. Dinneen appears to be basing his perspective on the fact that newer vehicles
, and thus will not be affected.
But aside from the engine life issue, there's other major concerns about corn ethanol. First, after years of government subsidies for the use of corn as a sweetener, the commercial food industry is deeply dependent on corn syrup -- and by proxy corn crops. Corn ethanol and corn syrup both compete for the same crop -- the most sugary breeds of corn. And even when corn ethanol producers ferment with lower sugar feed corn, they still raise prices of livestock feed,
bumping meat prices higher
. As a result, the corn ethanol industry has been shown to elevate food prices in multiple ways, according to experts.
The issues with corn ethanol run far deeper than engine damage. [Image Source: Digital Trends]
Further, while ethanol is more efficient (per cost) in single-mode engines, in dual-mode engines (using blends), it's been shown that the customer gets less fuel economy when using various blends than if they went all ethanol or all gas. In many cases this makes blended fuels more effective on a per-mile basis than gas. Ethanol proponents insist the market will adjust, but it's yet to be seen if that actually happens.
Lastly, there are questions over whether corn ethanol is greenwashing. When only emissions at the pipe are considered corn ethanol appears to cut emissions. But when the entire life cycle -- from plough to pipe -- is considered, it appears that
corn ethanol actually increases emissions
(unlike a number of alternative biofuels). Further, some have claimed the entire production process of ethanol has a net loss of energy, meaning that the industry uses more fuel to grow, harvest, and ship corn ethanol than it gets out.
But for all the criticism, the fact remains that ethanol increases are currently the law of the land.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) proposed this year raising blending targets 16.5 billion gallons, up 8.5 percent from a year ago. By 2022 production will double. If those targets remain in place, it will be virtually impossible for refiners to sell anything
E15. Refiners obtain a certain amount of credits for blending in ethanol; and if they don't blend enough they face stiff fines.
In fact, under the current rollout, it would be unsurprising to see E20 or E25 mixtures being forced into service to keep pace with the doubling of production quotas.
Many new vehicles -- including those from Chrysler Group LLC, Toyota Motor Corp. (
), Nissan Motor Comp., Ltd. (
), Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (
), and Volkswagen AG (
) still do not support E15; using E15 in them will void your warranty, according to the automakers, regardless of what the federal policy mandates. But this situation may worsen in years ahead, as even automakers like Ford Motor Comp. (
) who support E15 do not support E20 or E25 in most of their models (some "E85" capable vehicles are sold, but they remain a minority).
In other words, even if your vehicle can use E15 without damage, you may be in the same position Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, and Volkswagen owners are in today, just down the road. When higher blends arrive, you may be just a fillup away from voiding your warranty.
II. Is it Time to Reform or Roll Back the Energy Act of 2007?
Amidst that backdrop, there is some growing momentum in Washington D.C. to roll back the
2007 Energy Act
, which was signed by President George W. Bush.
Rep. Fred Upton
(R-Mich.) chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee
The Detroit News
as saying that a bill to reform that 2007 law is incoming, with the aim of passing it by the end of this year.
Much of the debate in the House currently centers on whether the best option is to kill the original law altogether, or whether it'd be better to modify it in some regard scaling back targets.
Rep. Joe Barton
(R-Texas) proposed killing it, but his colleague
Rep. Ed Whitfield
(R-Kentucky) is fighting to simply rework it, commenting, "We want is an RFS (renewable fuel standard) that can work for everyone involved, be it farmers, renewable fuel producers, refiners, and automakers. And most importantly, we want a policy that benefits the American driving public."
These stands represent largely who the representatives received their money from. Rep. Barton is funded/sponsored by the likes of Pickens Comp., and Exxon Mobil Corp. (
]. Rep. Whitfield is funded/sponsored by Koch Industries, who owns ethanol plants, and Caterpillar Inc. (
) who makes machinery used harvest corn [
The big question is what will happen if a repeal or reworking makes it to the Senate floor. The Democratic controlled Senate has shown very little interest in trimming back corn ethanol blending targets. The blame cannot be pinned solely on Democrats; both Senators from both parties have been more heavily funded by "big corn" than their House colleagues. That said, the Democrats are leading the push to protect corn ethanol at present, with the likes of Senators
(D/"Farmer-Labor Party"- Minnesota); and
Big corn has won over politicians with via its friend "bill". [Image Source: Agriculture.com]
In fact these Senators
proposed increasing ethanol quotas
via the trickily worded
Biofuels Expansion Act of 2011
. Thus it remains to be seen whether an effort to scale back targets can survive, amidst heavy lobbying from the corn industry (even as the other side lobbies hard as well).
Meanwhile the E15 mass rollout creeps closer. Currently only a handful of stations in the Midwest carry the blend, as most refiners have not yet started its mass production. But with the Supreme Court refusing to hear appeals on the standard, it seems just a matter of time before E15 is pouring out the pump across the nation -- even if that fuel damages your older vehicle, RV, boat, or motorcycle.
The Detroit News
"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive
Supreme Court Kills E15 Protest, Greenlights Lower MPG, Destroyed Engines
June 24, 2013, 7:07 PM
Supreme Court Asked to Rule on EPA's Ethanol Mandate
March 27, 2013, 9:05 AM
Obama's EPA Faces Decision Between Corn Ethanol Profits and Farm Jobs
October 12, 2012, 2:51 PM
EPA Clears the Way for E15 Fuel at Local Gas Stations
June 19, 2012, 9:34 AM
E15 Fuel Could Damage Cars According to Automakers, DOE Says "Whatever"
May 17, 2012, 9:57 AM
Jaguar I-PACE – Jaguar’s New Electric Concept / New SUV
November 16, 2016, 5:00 AM
Car Insurance - The Hidden Discriminatory Practise
October 18, 2016, 5:00 AM
End of the Road for the Audi R8 e-tron
October 15, 2016, 5:00 AM
Paralyzed Race Car Driver Recieves Nevada License
October 12, 2016, 5:00 AM
Take a Glance at the Cars of the Paris 2016 Motor Show
October 4, 2016, 5:00 AM
Automaker Porsche may expand range of Panamera Coupe design.
September 18, 2016, 11:00 AM
Most Popular Articles
What Can You Do with Your New Echo Dot?
December 3, 2016, 5:00 AM
Google has developed Deep Learning Algorithm to detect Diabetic Eye Disease
December 4, 2016, 5:00 AM
Foscam R2 Home Security Camera System – High Quality High FHD Security Video Footage with No Monthly Fees
December 1, 2016, 2:00 AM
The iPlugmate is an Excellent iPhone Flash Drive at a Great Price. (Deal Expires in 3 Days)
November 23, 2016, 1:00 AM
Microsoft Surface – Which Surface is Right for You?
December 2, 2016, 5:00 AM
Latest Blog Posts
In The News
Dec 7, 2016, 5:00 AM
e Guide: Mobile Security for 2017
Dec 6, 2016, 5:00 AM
Apple Car is Not Dead
Dec 5, 2016, 1:00 AM
Dec 4, 2016, 5:00 AM
Dec 3, 2016, 5:00 AM
Dec 2, 2016, 5:00 AM
Surface Ergonomic Keyboard
Dec 1, 2016, 3:01 AM
Chapeconense plane crash: Football rallies around Brazilian Team
Nov 30, 2016, 1:00 AM
How to Extends Your iPhone’s Battery Life
Nov 29, 2016, 12:49 AM
Nov 28, 2016, 1:12 AM
News: Fidel Castro
Nov 27, 2016, 5:00 AM
Nov 26, 2016, 5:00 AM
Changes in Social status affect the way genes turn on and off within immune cells.
Nov 25, 2016, 5:12 AM
Austrian far–right hopeful Hofer may back EU vote.
Nov 24, 2016, 4:00 AM
Final Fantasy XV Leaked Before Nov 29 Launch Date
Nov 23, 2016, 1:00 AM
Nov 22, 2016, 2:26 AM
Nov 21, 2016, 1:00 AM
HTC Makes Big Moves in China
Nov 20, 2016, 2:00 AM
Do you know who is the number one company in the word?
Nov 19, 2016, 5:30 AM
Foldable Cardboard ”EcoHelmet” wins James Dyson Award’s Top Prize
Nov 18, 2016, 2:39 AM
Scientists Discover Roundest Object Ever Spotted in Universe
Nov 17, 2016, 1:00 AM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information