The Truth About Cars » E15 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » E15 For First Time, E.P.A. Proposes Cutting Renewable Fuel Standards’ 2014 Ethanol Requirement for Gasoline Blends Mon, 18 Nov 2013 14:00:02 +0000 rfs

While ethanol producers have been lobbying to increase the blend of that alcohol in standard gasoline to 15%, many in the auto industry have opposed that increase, saying that it could damage cars. Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has, for the first time, proposed reducing the ethanol requirement in the nation’s fuel supply. Actually, what they are proposing is a smaller increase in the overall use of ethanol, which means that the national standard may not be raised to E15.

Enough ethanol is being produced to meet the EPA’s current requirements. Most of that is used to make E10, a 10% ethanol / 90% gasoline mix, and E85, which is 85% ethanol. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the Renewable Fuels Standard mandate increasing the amount of ethanol used in the national fuel supply, but the EPA is facing what has been called the “blend wall”. If any more alcohol is mixed into regular gas it will push the overall blend above 10%, which could create problems with the fuel systems of cars.

The requirements project a use of 15-15.52 billion gallons of ethanol and the EPA is recommending that refiners and blenders use a total of 15.21 billion gallons, within the lower range of the projections.

Says the EPA:

[The] EPA is proposing to adjust the applicable volumes of advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel to address projected availability of qualifying renewable fuels and limitations in the volume of ethanol that can be consumed in gasoline given practical constraints on the supply of higher ethanol blends to the vehicles that can use them and other limits on ethanol blend levels in gasoline.

The move was praised by the oil industry and criticized by ethanol makers and farmers.

Biofuel supporters were even more disappointed than those backing corn ethanol, with the EPA proposing to significantly reduce the cellulosic biofuel standard. Producers haven’t been able to make anywhere near the original standards.

The EPA said, “Based on an assessment of the available volumes of cellulosic biofuels, EPA is proposing to set the cellulosic biofuel standard at 17 million gallons, significantly lower than CAA target of 1.75 billion gallons (PDF).”

These are proposed changes in the rules. There will be a period for public comment followed by hearings before any of the proposals are given the force of law.

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Piston Slap: The Corrosive Effects of Ethanol Laced Gasoline? Wed, 12 Jun 2013 11:11:34 +0000

Misha writes:

Hi Sajeev!

I’m a long time lurker, first time asker. I was curious about the effects of E85/E90 ethanol laced gasoline. I have read a bunch about how older cars are susceptible to corrosion damage to various parts of the fuel line.

I was curious to know if this, or any other ethanol related problem, is still applicable in modern cars? Thanks a lot!

Sajeev answers:

Let’s try to avoid the Ethanol Sucks/Support Our Farmers debate, hmm-kay? Long time TTAC readers already know where “we” stand on the issue.

Cars older than 2001 cannot run gasoline with more than 10% ethanol in the mix. Most newer cars cannot run E85/E90 because they aren’t tuned/programmed for it. Older cars (and small gas engines like lawn mowers) with rubber fuel lines are totally screwed, and perhaps also there’s a concern with corrosion of metal components.  But ethanol is only corrosive in some applications: per Wikipedia:

“High alcohol fuel blends are reputed to cause corrosion of aluminum fuel system components. However, studies indicate that the addition of water to the high alcohol fuel blends helps prevent corrosion. This is shown in SAE paper 2005-01-3708 Appendix 1.2 where gasoline/alcohol blends of E50, nP50,IP50 nB50, IB50 were tested on steel, copper, nickel, zinc, tin and three types of aluminum. The tests showed that when the water content was increased from 2000ppm to 1%, corrosion was no longer evident except some materials showed discolouration.”

I spoke (off the record? Ish?) with a Ford engineer friend of mine…just to make this posting a little more kosher.

“It’s only calibrated to do so if it’s advertised. I know at Ford we slap E85/E90 on the capless filler if it can take it. So like on newer cars like the 2.0L Focus, yes. But legacy powertrains like your Ranger, no. (except the 3.0L Vulcan, GOTCHA! – SM)  It’s all in the calibration and the capabilities of the ignition system.”

What’s the key takeaway here?  RTFM…son!


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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AAA: No More Alcohol For Cars! Fri, 30 Nov 2012 16:04:29 +0000

The AAA asked the U.S. government to prohibit the sale of E15. Only about 5 percent of the 240 million light duty vehicles on U.S. roads today are approved by manufacturers to run on the gasoline that contains 15 percent alcohol, and the other 95 percent could be ruined by the wicked fuel, says the AAA. The industry agrees.

The EPA approved E15 in 2011 for cars and light trucks made since model year 2000, triggering protests from auto-makers, service station owners and oil refiners who fear it may damage older engines. Their biggest fear: Legal action from motorists.

“AAA is urging regulators and the industry to stop the sale of E15 until motorists are better protected,” AAA said in a statement. “Unsuspecting consumers using E15 could end up with engine problems that might not be covered by their vehicles’ warranties.”

According to the AAA, BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen have said that their warranties will not cover fuel-related claims caused by the use of E15.

The federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), requires the use of 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol in fuel this year, rising to 15 billion gallons annually from 2015.

Governors of four poultry-raising states this year asked EPA for relief from the mandate, saying the corn crop is too small to use 40 percent of it making biofuels.

In Germany, a widespread buyer strike stopped E10, containing only 10 percent ethanol, in its tracks. The movement has its own Facebook page and broad support from the media.

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House Science Committee Approves Bill Blocking E15 Thu, 09 Feb 2012 17:12:34 +0000

The House Science Committee approved a bill that bars the EPA from approving E15 gasoline without a further study into its effects. The bill passed 19-7 as members voted along party lines. The bill was sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

Automakers and corn growers have clashed over E15, which is made from 15 percent corn-based ethanol biofuel. The EPA allowed its use in 2001 and newer vehicles, but various interest groups, including  Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute protested. In December 2011, Congress ended a 30 year subsidy for corn-based ethanol, that cost taxpayers an estimated $6 billion per year. Brazilian ethanol, which is made from sugarcane, also had its tariff lifted.

Opponents of ethanol noted that 40 percent of America’s corn crop went to ethanol usage, boosting food and animal feed prices unnecessarily by as much as 20 percent. Ethanol blend fuels are said to cause engine problems in vehicles not specially adapted to use them. Brazilian automobiles, for example, are designed to run on heavy blends of ethanol, including E85.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: E15 Ethanol Is Coming Edition Fri, 10 Jun 2011 15:36:54 +0000

Reuters reports that White House has approved a label for E15 ethanol blends, which warn motorists not to use the higher blend if their vehicle was built before the 2007 model-year. What Reuters won’t show you is the final label design that was approved… was it the EPA’s proposed design (above), or one of the ethanol lobby’s proposed alternatives (see gallery below). Clearly there’s a bit of a difference between the two, and the EPA was under quite a bit of pressure to not go with the orange-and-red “CAUTION!” version. In documentation from hearings on the E15 labeling issue [PDF], you can read executives and lobbyists expounding at length about the fact that ethanol is good for America, and that labeling shouldn’t discourage the use of E15. Which it doesn’t…. in 2007 and later vehicles. And if you check the EPA’s docket on the issue, you’ll find plenty of good reasons for preventing “misfueling”.  Luckily few gas station owners are likely to invest in E15 pumps anyway, so you may never actually see this label in the wild.

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Study: Ethanol Industry Must Go Back To E85 To Beat “Blend Wall” Fri, 14 Jan 2011 15:40:54 +0000

Recently the ethanol industry has “suffered” from a problem that epitomizes the problematic nature of government subsidies. Known as the “blend wall” this obstacle was created not by negligence on the part of the industry, but by the fact that its lobbying efforts have been far more effective than its marketing efforts. The problem, in a nutshell, is that the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard mandates a steady increase in the amount of ethanol blended into the national fuel supply, from 9 billion gallons per year (BGY) in 2008 to 36 BGY in 2022… but with gasoline consumption falling and with standard pump gasoline capped at a maximum of ten percent ethanol (recently raised to 15% for vehicles built after 2007), the industry that’s supposed to get America off gas needs more gas to blend its ethanol into. As a study in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics puts it

Total national consumption of gasoline in the United States has been about 140 billion gallons in 2010 and is expected to fall over time due to increasing fuel economy standards. Thus, at present, if every drop of gasoline were blended as E10, the maximum ethanol that could be absorbed would be 14 billion gallons. In reality, 10% cannot be blended in all regions and seasons. Most experts consider an average blend of 9% to be the effective maximum, which amounts to about 12.6 billion gallons. U.S. ethanol production capacity already exceeds this level. Thus, our ability to consume ethanol has reached a limit called the blend wall.

The solution: well, the EPA’s ruling allowing 15% ethanol blends was supposed to fix the problem, but according to this report, that “fix” would only buy some four years before the industry is back to bumping against the blend wall. The solution?

With ethanol as the primary biofuel and either blend limit (E10 or E15), a substantial increase in E85 would be required to fulfill the mandate.

Do you remember E85? A few years ago, automakers like GM were deep into the “Flex Fuel” craze, touting the 85% ethanol blend as America’s opportunity to free itself from foreign oil dependence. But after the so-called “tortilla riots” in which Mexicans protested the rising cost of corn driven up by ethanol (not to mention a growing awareness of ethanol’s environmental costs) GM has become a far less vocal proponent of ethanol, as the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers has even gone as far as to sue the EPA to stop E15 ethanol blends. And no wonder the enthusiasm for E85 in particular has taken a hit recently: not only does it use the most ethanol, thereby incurring the greatest impacts on food prices and the environment, but the EPA has even stated that

E85 needs to be priced competitively with (if not lower than) conventional gasoline based on its reduced energy content, increased time spent at the pump, and limited availability

And despite the huge government subsidies enjoyed by the ethanol industry, E85 simply isn’t priced anywhere near competitively. But the problem isn’t limited to the issues listed above either: E85 has to be so appealing to consumers that they choose to purchase a “Flex-Fuel” or E85-capable vehicle from the limited models that offer such capability.

Given the blend limits on E10 (or the blend wall), additional ethanol consumption can come from only E85. However, this leads to a new dynamic that further exacerbates the challenge. Unlike E10, which is a derived demand from gasoline, E85 acts as a substitute for E10 in equation. Thus, the effect of increasing E85 is to crowd out some of the ethanol used to blend E10, further lowering the E10 blend wall.

And the blend wall isn’t the only challenge: because E85 must be used to soak up the government’s ethanol mandates, there would also be a pump and Flex-Fuel vehicle (FFV) bottleneck as well. The study concludes that, even with E15 coming from from normal gas pumps

Ethanol in E15 consumption would grow from 13.1 BGY in 2010 to a peak of 19.7 BGY in 2016, before falling to 17.5 BGY in 2022, as the continued growth in E85 once again crowds out the use of the lower-blend fuel. By 2022, there needs to be around 90.4 million FFVs on the roads, served at 236,208 E85 dispensers. The total cost of installation for E85 dispensers and FFVs is $23.4 billion, or an NPV of $8.0 billion for this scenario. Thus, compared with the E10 scenario, the adoption of an E15 blending limit would reduce the consumption of E85 by 6 BGY in 2022 and lessen the demand for FFVs and E85 dispensers. This would save an NPV of $3.1 billion, or 28% of the Scenario 1 E10 NPV.

And who, pray tell, would bear the $8b cost of forcing Americans to buy a fuel they don’t want? Oh, and by the way, the study notes that

the cost estimates provided here are clearly underestimates of total cost

And if E15 is proven to be harmful to non-FFVs, we’re back to “scenario 1″ in which the “underestimated” cost rises above $11b. And all this is necessary only to make sense of a subsidized mandate that will cost taxpayers at least $6b per year next year alone. The ethanol industry has clearly gone down the government subsidy rabbit hole, and it’s time for the madness to stop.

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Automakers Sue To Stop E15 Ethanol Blends Mon, 20 Dec 2010 19:15:45 +0000

When oil and food industry groups sued to roll back the EPA’s ruling allowing E15 ethanol blends in 2007 and later model-year cars, we concluded

the political tail has wagged the scientific dog on ethanol ever since the farm lobby realized that ethanol could be the next corn syrup. With any luck, this lawsuit could just be the point at which science re-asserts itself.

The missing link: the automakers. Though auto manufacturers have been slowly climbing on board the anti-ethanol bandwagon, in no small part because large domestic OEMs like GM were once closely allied with the ethanol industry, it seems that the coalition to stop E15 is now complete. A new group known as the Engine Products Group, comprised of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, has filed a new petition to block the EPA’s E15 ruling.

According to a press release

The petition challenges the ability of EPA to grant a partial waiver for three specific reasons.

  • The Clean Air Act does not authorize EPA to issue any “partial waiver” decisions,
  • EPA’s own statute passed by Congress in 2007 states that fuels can’t be approved for the market that could cause any failures. Yet, E-15 has been shown to adversely affect engines in non-road products and later model year vehicles, cause emission failures and increase air pollution due to misfueling. Further, administrative records fail to demonstrate that even new model year motor vehicles (other than “flexible fuel vehicles”) would not be damaged and result in failures when run on E-15, and
  • The testing, upon which EPA made its decision, was put in the administrative record too late to permit meaningful comment or scrutiny from concerned groups and stakeholders.

Another concern? With E15 approved only for vehicles built after 2007, there are no safeguards to prevent E15 fueling in pre-2007 vehicles. A spokesman explains

While all members of the EPG have and continue to support the development and use of safe and sustainable alternative fuels, the action EPA has taken to permit E-15 to be sold as a legal fuel, even if limited only to certain products, will have adverse consequences for the environment and consumers. A partial waiver, by its nature, necessarily will result in the misfueling of products not designed or tested for E-15 use

The response, from pro-ethanol lobbying group Growth energy:

The scientific evidence demonstrates clearly that E15 is safe not only for newer vehicles – the 2007 and newer approved already by EPA this year – but also for all passenger cars and trucks on the road today. We support the EPA decision to grant the waiver for 2007 and newer vehicles, and we look forward to EPA’s action on 2001 to 2006 model year vehicles. Concerns about misfueling are premature, as EPA is drafting a robust labeling rule and will conduct a vigorous public education campaign, and we are confident that the process will be successful.”

And last but not least, there’s a little delicious irony in this brewing battle. If the EPA’s E15 waiver is struck down by the courts, the imminent renewal of the ethanol subsidy package will simply have the ethanol industry bouncing off the “blend wall” all over again. It’s 2008 all over again!

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Oil, Food Industry Groups Sue To Stop E15 Ethanol Tue, 09 Nov 2010 22:58:48 +0000

We’ve been tracking mounting opposition to E15 ethanol for some time now, and when the EPA approved the 15-percent corn juice blend for vehicles made in 2007 or later, we saw the opposition begin to crystalize. Now, the Detroit News reports that a number of oil, food and other interest groups have filed suit in a D.C. Circuit appeals court, seeking to halt the EPA’s approval of E15. According to the DetN

The petitioners argue that under the Clean Air Act, the EPA administrator may only grant a waiver for a new fuel additive if it “will not cause or contribute to a failure of any emission control device or system.”

They believe the “EPA has unlawfully interpreted the statute to achieve a particular outcome,” but EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said it was based on “sound science.”

Considering the approval was apparently based on study results from a mere 14 vehicles, it sounds like the industry groups might have a solid point here. Especially when you realize that a major motivation for E15 approval is from the fact that blenders couldn’t sell enough E10 to meet government mandates. As the video above (from June of this year) proves, the political tail has wagged the scientific dog on ethanol ever since the farm lobby realized that ethanol could be the next corn syrup. With any luck, this lawsuit could just be the point at which science re-asserts itself.

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EPA Approves E15 Ethanol Blends For 2007 And Later Model Years, Automakers, Blenders And Auto Advocates Protest Wed, 13 Oct 2010 15:12:19 +0000

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.

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Ask The Best And Brightest: Would You Pay More For Ethanol-Free Fuel? Tue, 31 Aug 2010 20:41:04 +0000

Gasoline with up to ten percent ethanol have been approved for public sale in the US, and the ethanol industry has been pushing to increase the maximum allowed blend to 15 percent. Or 12 percent until the EPA can figure out if E15 damages engines. But with automakers turning against the e15 push, fears about E10-related engine damage (which primarily began with boat and small engine operators) are being more widely heard. So why is E10 allowed if it damages engines? For one thing, points out that

Yamaha warns that due to the fungible nature of fuels in transit from refinery to service station, some E10 fuels may actually get an extra dose of ethanol

In other words, E10 may be safe but you may not actually be getting E10. But more importantly, the market is answering the call of consumers. Over at, a site dedicated to connecting Americans with stations offering ethanol-free gasoline, the number of registered “pure gas” pumps has skyrocketed since June of last year. But, warns the site’s founder (a BMW motorcycle enthusiast),

We buy [ethanol-free gas] because we want to fuel our vehicles with it. If you want to save money on gas, this site is of no use to you – it will NOT have gasoline prices on it. They vary from day to day and this site isn’t about saving money. It’s about finding pure gasoline for your machine.

So we’re wondering: does ethanol-free gas exist near you, and if so, is it more expensive? Finally, is there a price premium you would be willing to pay for ethanol-free gas? Or would you even pick corn-free gas (and its groundwater-accumulating carcinogen MTBE) at price parity with E10?

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E15 Ethanol Opposition Calls For Congressional Hearings Thu, 26 Aug 2010 19:22:22 +0000

Opposition to the Ethanol industry’s push to allow gasoline blends with up to 15 percent ethanol is coming together this week, as a massive coalition of interest groups calls for congressional hearings on the EPA’s pending E15 decision [via PRNewswire]. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Association of International Automobile Manufacturers joined 37 other groups, ranging from the National Resources Defense Council to the Outdoor Power Equipment and Engine Service Association, in calling on congressional energy committees to take up the issue.

The letter explains

EPA has indicated that it should make a decision on granting a waiver for E15 by the end of September, and we believe that many important questions remain before EPA can make this decision.  For example, EPA has not released information about the mid-level blend’s impact on different types of road and non-road engines, nor has it released information about how it will prevent harm to consumers from “misfueling” their engines with the incorrect blend.

We believe there are many questions remaining before EPA makes its final decision on the mid- level ethanol fuel waiver, and that the Environment and Public Works Committee is the ideal place to ask those questions.  We also believe that the Department of Energy should fully expand and accelerate mid-level ethanol blends research in the areas that are necessary to protect consumers. For these reasons, we urge you to hold a hearing with EPA, DOE and other witnesses on the mid-level ethanol testing and waiver.

The coalition of E15 opponents is a big tent and as the letter makes clear, environmentalism isn’t necessarily the glue that holds it together. A number of food-industry groups like the American Meat Institute, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the National Turkey Federation are concerned about ethanol’s impacts on food prices. The Association of Marina Industries, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, SEMA, the automakers and other motor-industry interest groups are primarily concerned about E15′s impact on their products. The call for more testing of E15 and E12 (which the corn and ethanol industries have requested approval for as an interim measure) is primarily motivated by the motor manufacturing and service faction, as ethanol has been tied to corrosion in engines, reduced fuel economy, and higher-than-normal operating temperatures.

Still, this broad coalition seems determined to provide a counter-weight to the ethanol lobby. Its website goes beyond just calling for more E15 testing, laying out a comprehensive case for opposition to corn ethanol. If opposition to corn ethanol’s long stint at the federal trough is in this fight for the long haul, we may yet see a real rollback in the wasteful subsidies for ethanol. If nothing else, limiting blending to E10 will keep the ethanol industry’s back against the “blend wall.” That’s a fine place to start.

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EPA Resists Cheap BP Spill Symbolism, Delays Ethanol Blend Hike Fri, 18 Jun 2010 21:47:55 +0000

America’s ethanol producers were some of the few Americans optimistic or cynical enough to find a bright side to the BP Gulf spill. Ethanol’s lobbyists-in-chief, GrowthEnergy, decided it would be real cute to run ads highlighting all the bad things ethanol hadn’t done. One of which is not “Ethanol has never harmed the Gulf of Mexico,” by the way. As the ad parody above points out though, even if the ethanol was creating a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico for years before the BP spill, there are quite a few other things ethanol hasn’t done. Like this, just in from the AP [via Google]: convince the EPA to buy into its shameful, manipulative PR line and rush a decision on increasing blending limits.

Not that it’s much of a victory. After all, not exploiting a tragic disaster to shove down wasteful subsidies is hardly something to brag about. And it’s looking like E15 (“normal” gas with 15 percent ethanol, instead of the federal cap of 10 percent) will be approved this fall, as there’s no other way for blenders to meet their subsidized 12b gallon 2010 blending mandate. Secretary of Agriculture Tim Vilsack tells the AP that tests look “good” and that discussing a timeline is a positive sign for ethanol.

With this green light, USDA is surging ahead on our work to provide support to feedstock producers, biofuel refiners and infrastructure installers, such as blender pumps, to ensure that all the pieces of the ethanol supply chain are ready to supply the market demand,

But the ethanol industry wasn’t having it. GrowthEnergy made a statement harping on the BP spill, the Renewable Fuel Association called for an interim approval of E12, and ArchersDanielMidland said it was “disappointed.” [via]. And all because the EPA wants to test vehicles (even then, only 2007 models and later) to prove they won’t be harmed by the 15 percent blends that the industry is so impatient for. But this is the second time the pro-ethanol forces have seen an E15 ruling delayed, and their billion dollar boondoggle needs to be fed to keep going. After all, when the ethanol industry talks about “demand,” they’re not referring to consumers, who have shown a marked distaste for the corn juice. Demand for ethanol begins and ends in Washington D.C.

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EPA Won’t Rule On E15 Based On Two Cars Worth Of Data Tue, 01 Dec 2009 16:02:50 +0000 (

Well, the good news is that the EPA has thus far refused to allow gasoline blends of more than ten percent ethanol. The bad news is that the Agency has yet to take a firm stand against the idea of eventually allowing E15 into the nation’s gas pumps. In fact, as the EPA’s response to the ethanol lobbying group Growth Energy’s request to allow E15 [full document in PDF form here] opens:

It is vitally important that the country increase the use of renewable fuels. To meet that goal EPA is working to implement the long-term renewable fuels mandate of 36 billion gallons by 2022. To achieve the renewable fuel requirements in future years, it is clear that ethanol will need to be blended into gasoline at levels greater than the current limit of 10 percent.

This time though, the glacial pace of bureaucracy is a positive. Though the EPA believes that “the robust fuel, engine and emissions control systems on newer vehicles (likely 2001 and newer model years) will likely be able to accomodate higher ethanol blends, such as E15,” it won’t have definitive results until August of 2010. After all, the EPA admits that “presently, data are available on only two vehicles.” By May though, it will have tested 12 additional vehicles, making the data set literally good enough for government work. Unless that data “highlights potential problems,” the EPA says it will approve E15 for 2001 model year and later cars, pending the necessary changes in pump and vehicle labeling. [Hat Tip: Paul Greenberg]

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E85 Boondoggle Of The Week: Blend Cap Decision Coming This Week Mon, 30 Nov 2009 21:30:00 +0000

The EPA is set to rule as soon as tomorrow on the so-called “blend cap,” which forbids the sale of gasoline with more than ten percent ethanol. The petition to raise the blend cap came from a relatively new pro-ethanol lobbying group, Growth Energy, which requested the cap be moved to fifteen percent ethanol. Growth Energy’s request cites foreign oil dependence, “green-collar jobs” and the future of cellulosic ethanol as reasons to bump the blend cap, but as the New York Times reports, the real problem is that the ten percent limit is bumping up against a congressional mandate to blend 15b gallons of biofuels with gasoline by 2012. What the Times fails to mention is the financial incentive for raising the blend cap: the 51 cent-per-gallon of ethanol blended tax credit. In 2007, when gas consumption was at an all-time high and ethanol blending mandates required a mere 4.7b gallons (with 7b actually blended), that credit cost taxpayers nearly $3b. In 2012, when the mandate hits 15b gallons, the taxpayer tab will be closer to $7.65b.

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers is warning that higher blends of ethanol will cut the lives of catalytic converters in half, while E85 (85 percent ethanol, used only by “flex-fuel” vehicles) is 31 cents per gallon more expensive than gas when its lower efficiency is factored in. The reality is that meeting blending mandates has simply become more difficult because they were legislated in 2007, when few saw reason to project downward trends in fuel consumption. As Americans struggle with economic downturn, and as the auto industry improves its fuel-efficient offerings, the ethanol blending mandates represent nothing more than a burden without meaningful reward. Here’s hoping the EPA stands strong on the ten percent limit, and the discussion moves towards limiting the public expense of the ethanol industry.

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