Bloomberg reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has approved blends of up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline for cars produced since 2007, handing a victory to pro-ethanol groups like Growth Energy. The EPA had previously capped gas-ethanol blending at 10 percent (E10), on fears that the higher percentage of corn-based ethanol could damage engines. But the approval of E15 hasn’t exactly made those fears go away. According to Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow
The approval of E-15 by the EPA won’t have a positive effect on [ethanol giant Archer Daniels Midland] in the near-term. Blenders remain reluctant to implement E-15 because it requires a separate pump and because the EPA has not absolved the blenders of potential legal liability from consumers.
And it’s not just blenders who are up in arms at the decision. Gas refiner Valero Energy, the American Automobile Association and the Detroit automakers (which had previously been pro-ethanol) are all against the increase to E15 in “normal gas.” All of which means E15 isn’t likely to show up at your neighorhood gas pump anytime soon.
In addition to opposition from automakers and blenders (who worry mainly about engine damage liability), environmental and food-producing groups have joined the fight against E15, arguing that the corn-based fuel is bad for the environment and raises food prices. But concern from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute and SEMA about ethanol’s impacts on older cars and small engines may be having the greatest impact.
Reuters reports that the EPA will rule on the safety of E15 in vehicles built between 2001 and 2006 by December, and says that E15 likely won’t hit pumps until after that ruling has been made. And when E15 does arrive sometime next year, it will have to be distributed from a separate pump with signage indicating that the fuel is safe only for vehicles in approved model-years. The EPA is currently drafting a rule on pump signage for E15.
This means that E15 won’t completely replace E10, giving motorists the opportunity to vote with their pocketbooks to reject the 15 percent blend. Meanwhile, motorists opposed to any amount of ethanol in their gasoline have more resources than ever for finding ethanol-free gasoline in their community. Though the approval of E15 is a setback for those who worry about the corn juice’s affects on their engines, the economy or the environment, there are plenty of ways to resist this giveaway to America’s strong farm lobby. Thanks to the great principles on which this nation was founded, a well-informed population remains free to use the fuel that’s right for them. And, as history proves, politically-popular subsidies are never a match for the power of the market.