By on October 13, 2010

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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26 Comments on “EPA Approves E15 Ethanol Blends For 2007 And Later Model Years, Automakers, Blenders And Auto Advocates Protest...”

  • avatar

    Great news! We can lower our MPG and create food shortages. Thanks gubmint, you’re always looking out for us.

  • avatar

    Meanwhile, “green” ethanol producers are given fines for polluting water and more.

  • avatar

    Retired General Wesley Clark can be proud of himself. Classic job of lobbying — ie, selling yourself out for money over principle. We are hearing the word “whore” a lot here in California politics. Here’s one case where the word fits.

  • avatar

    Well, unless a gas station owner wants to dedicate a special pump for 2007 and later cars, who have owners who appreciate lower mpg, I don’t think this will catch on.

    Government at it’s worst- another subsidy for agribusiness.  Corn ethanol not only takes roughly as much energy to produce as it provides back, but you also have to deal with the enviromental impacts of farming (e.g. water pollution, deforestation, soil depletion).  We’re better off financially and environmentally just burning gasoline.  If we want something more domestic, lets take the diesel and natural gas used to run farm machinery, ethanol distilleries, and fertilizer/pesticide production and run cars on it.

  • avatar

    Food shortage is a red herring; most corn we grow isn’t edible and goes to feed or additives.  Maybe if we put more corn in the tank and less in ourselves we wouldn’t have so much obesity.  Plus look at any pattern of starvation in the 20th century and you’ll see it’s not the failure of crops that’s the cause as much as civil wars destroying farming and preventing aid from reaching people.
    All this starvation stuff has no merit.  Focus on real concerns like old motors with rotting fuel lines that will rot a bit faster with ethanol in them.  Or maybe focus on our agricultural policies which sponsors the situation we’re in with corn altogether.  But that’s not car related so maybe not.
    To crown it all is the fact no one’s required to put 15% or even 10% ethanol in gas. Whatever happened to the magic of the free market determining the success of everything? If 15% is no good no one’s going to use it.

    • 0 avatar

      To crown it all is the fact no one’s required to put 15% or even 10% ethanol in gas.

      California requires 10% ethanol for most of the year. Senator Feinstein tried to get an exemption, but could not.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d love to hear more about that free market thingy. Here in New England, we’ve adopted the California standards. I am unaware of any gas stations within reasonable distance where I can get pure gas. I haven’t checked marinas or performance shops (race gas), but those options are more expensive and inconvenient to boot.

    • 0 avatar

      chuckR: Read and learn. I put those red links into the body text for a reason.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with Daanii2. Minnesota has required at least 10% ethanol in our gasoline for as long as I can remember.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a good reason to use a small amount of ethanol in lieu of MTBE, but that’s not what E15 is about.

    • 0 avatar

      I cant find any gas aorund here that isnt 10% ethanol, so it;’s not voluntary.

    • 0 avatar

      I followed TTAC’s link to They list all the “pure gas” stations by state. It took me a while to realize that they have no listing for California. No pure gas, apparently, at all here in my home state.

    • 0 avatar

      All this starvation stuff has no merit.
      No merit, eh? Since when is agriculture isolated from the effects of the free market? Or are you telling us that more demand for corn will not lead to higher corn prices (it happened before, didn’t it?). Or, are you telling us that nobody on the planet would be forced to choose between paying the rent and buying food, once food get more expensive (you should get out more)?

      Just because the US tend to produce more corn than it consumes, does not mean the food vs fuel debate goes away. Quite the contrary.

    • 0 avatar

      IIUC, the entire MTBE/ethanol business is bogus; it doesn’t lower pollution.

      Back in the ’70s, EPA did studies that showed if you mix extra oxygen into gasoline, the mixture leans out and is “cleaner.” That’s true, for a 1970s car with a carburetor. Today, modern cars have oxygen sensors that detect the lean condition, and enrich the mixture to compensate. Voila! Lower mileage, higher prices, no change to smog.

      The chemicals used to do this are called “oxygenates”; MTBE is one, ethanol is another. MTBE tastes like paint thinner, and is probably mutagenic; when it leaks into the water table, it fouls drinking water wells permanently. (Google for “charnock mtbe”.) Ethanol is harmless by comparison; it just costs more.

      The problem I see with this is: eventually, all stations will be required to sell E15, and it will displace E0 and E10. At that point, owners of old vehicles will be obliged to retrofit their cars to tolerate E15. Lots of garden tools and boats will be junked.


  • avatar

    The danger is that 15% might eventually become the only choice. The government has a bad habit of legislating such things on the supply side.

  • avatar

    “force their hand by creating a mandate” = “free market and consumer choice”?  I guess I studied a different English where force/mandate doesn’t mean free/choice. :S

  • avatar

    Perhaps this is a stupid question, but I just read through the B&B article linked in one of Mr. Niedermeyer’s comments and found that there are about 4 stations within a short distance from me that offer ethanol free gasoline, and I was wondering if this would be something to try as a test to check out if there are any real fuel economy gains to use E0 gasoline. There is a station about 4 miles from me that offers 100 Octane gasoline, but advises that it is for classic cars and a couple other caveats, so I’m not sure if I can risk putting it in my car.

    I don’t understand the physics or chemistry behind it all and so I’m curious. I’ve always been baffled at the fact that my mileage is relatively poor considering what others report, on both True Delta and, who say that they drive in the same sort of way I do (i.e. 60/40 city/highway 75mph max and fairly light throttle). As I’ve never used straight gasoline I don’t have any benchmark for ethanol v. non-ethanol.

    EDIT: in case you are wondering I have a car with the 3800 Series III from GM and get around 19-21 mpg mixed city/highway driving.

    Thank you for humoring a “green” gearhead. I say “green” meaning that I’m working to understand many automotive issues and know that I have a lot to learn. I don’t mean that I’m an environmentalist per-se.

    • 0 avatar

      I have an ’04 with a Series II Supercharged, I know I took a hit when E10 became prominent in my area and it has stayed down.  My trip milage has dropped (used to be 28-30 straight highway all the time… now it’s 25-27) and my average but I can’t be 100% certain that some of it may be aging maintenance items on my car, I recently hit 100K miles and am due a tune up.

    • 0 avatar

      A few years ago, when I had my ’96 Probe GT, the Hawaii state gov’t mandated E10… supposedly as a means to resuscitate our dead sugar-cane industry… I saw an immediate 10-percent reduction in MPG. Lovely. The cherry on the sundae, the sugar industry is still dead.

  • avatar

    Awesome!!!! Now my car can get even worse mileage, and run even worse than it does now.  Where I live, I no other choice than E10 across the board.  In hot weather, my car knocks so bad it’s ridiculous.

  • avatar

    So the EPA pretty much just admitted that they lied about saying the automakers falsely  accused E15 on damaging engines. Am I surprised? no. I am however, horrified that those bastards will vote E15 into the standard so they can “help the corn farmers and lower emissions”.

  • avatar

    Again, I love diesel.

  • avatar

    Corn Ethanol uses tons of water and fertilizer to produce the corn.  It removes the nutrients from the soil and destorys food.  It funs up food prices for third world countries.

    On top of that, it provides less energy to our cars, and destroys our engines.

    This is nothing but a scam to support agriculture corporations.   What a waste of taxpayer dolloars.

  • avatar

    FUCK!  Fuckity fuck, fuck, fuck.  Lower mileage, higher prices, less corn to feed livestock.  But voters in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota are very happy.

  • avatar

    I’m with Litt — the midwest aquifer depletion for fuel is like turning gold into lead – some talk about crimes against future generations; this is the worst.

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