By on December 20, 2010

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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20 Comments on “Automakers Sue To Stop E15 Ethanol Blends...”

  • avatar

    What a boondoggle. By virtue of being an important primary state, farmers in Iowa get a triple subsidy: a direct subsidy on the price of ethanol, trade barriers against imports and a blending mandate! Sweet deal.

    This is the first item on the government waste list the new Congress should tackle. Doubt it will happen though.

    • 0 avatar

      You forgot about the subsidy to grow the corn!

      E15 is “safe” for all cars.  What an intentionally arbitrary word.  It’s not like there is a percise percentage point where everything goes from just fine to catastrophic destruction.  Ethanol increases corrosion and degredation of fuel system parts.  It can also cause lean-burn conditions if the fuel injectors can’t flow enough, or in open-loop mode, and will definitely cause things to lean up in older, carburated vehicles. It’d be hilarious to put them on the spot and ask what percentage of ethanol is NOT safe for all cars on the road today.

      I think we gave corn growing and ethanol-brewing tech pretty down pat.  Let them survive in the market without subsidies (which won’t happen due to the awful EROI of ethanol).  If the government wants to support ethanol, support research for making ethanol out of wast products.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I have gasoline engine powered equipment for which ethanol is strictly verboten. Ethanol-free premium Shell gasoline is not an option. The equipment user manuals warn against premium grade fuel.

  • avatar

    Wut? "safe for all passenger cars and trucks on the road today". That’s not even true for NON-ethanoled unleaded gas.

    I HATE being lied to by pressure groups, commercial interests, and governments. They are despicable.

  • avatar

    Another major waste of time / effort / money our Government has been giving to special interest groups.  The only benefit ethanol can provide it to replace MTBE as an oxygenate (octane booster) as an additive b/c it is more toxic to the environment (any greater concentration reduces mpg in the vehicles that burn it and it has no ROI).  End the quadruple subsidies for the ethanol industry and reduce our Federal and State deficits.

    • 0 avatar

      Oxyegenates are not the same as octane boosters. An octane booster (anti knock agent) increases the resistance of a fuel to pre-ignition. MTBE is an anti knock agent. Oxygenates are high in oxygen, and adding them into fuel will result in more oxygen in the tail pipe. In a way this achieves nothing besides meeting some pointless laws. Ethanol is rich in oxygen, and therefore can be classified as an oxygenate. It’s anti knock index (octane rating) is also high, 113 RON. Therefore it is used as both an anti-knock agent and an oxygenate. With the mandate for oxygenates, and the need for an octane booster, not to mention the subsidy, ethanol became a very logical additive into gasoline. The mandate solidified the use.

  • avatar

    The sad reality is that this will get resolved by Congress mandating that all cars be fully flex fuel, not by ending the subsidy, there by giving the industry yet another gift and raising food prices further. Oh, wait. We’ll just start importing corn from China. Problem solved.

  • avatar

    E10 made the fuel system in my 66′ Bug self-destruct!  Every non-metal component needed to be replaced within two years after a total ground up restoration that included all fuel lines and the carburetor.  It needed to have the carb float replaced yet again for the third time when I sold it last year.  I hate the stuff. This costs a lot for anyone who has a classic car. If E10 is this bad, what’s it going to be like for those who use E15?

  • avatar

    I wish they would put a switch on the pump to turn OFF the ethanol! This stuff is evil. I own a boat and the place that services my engine has warning signs all over the place about the damage its causes to marine engines. I’d pay more for E-free gas, but I can’t find any.

  • avatar

    Even the enviornmental groups are now against ethanol, although they initally supported it. It is actually WORSE for the enviornment than pure gasoline, all things considered. Another big FU by our legislators. Uneducated clowns should not be making these decisions, and should stick to what they do best, corruption and waste!

  • avatar

    I used this site to find a gas station in my town that has only ethanol-free gas:
    If more people find those gas stations and buy from them, at least that will keep them in business.

    • 0 avatar

      What about those who live in California (us poor sods)? By law, gas stations here are required to add ethanol to gasoline during most of the year to prevent pollution.

    • 0 avatar

      This site doesn’t seem correct. It lists seven stations in MI that sell “100%” gasoline. My question is where do these stations buy their fuel if all the distributors mix in 10% ethanol.

  • avatar

    Since it’s only approved for 2007 and newer cars, I would assume that E10 and straight gasoline will still be readily available.   OK then – just don’t buy the stuff.

  • avatar

    As others have said, Stop corn subsidies. Ethanol is the diabetes of the car world.

  • avatar

    While Tea Party aficionados celebrate the extension of the Bush tax cuts, they probably didn’t notice that their Republican comrades joined with the Democrats to pass another whopping ethanol subsidy.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.   Both parties are corrupt, but one thing’s for sure: there will be plenty of corn to go around for all.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, they did notice and they are not happy about it.

  • avatar

    There actually isn’t any problem in making new cars E15 compatible. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between E15 and E10. Not a difference that matters, anyway.
    The big issue is what automakers are going to do about all those “2007” cars that the EPA is stating are categorically “safe” with ethanol. Some of which are patently not. But the EPA can’t mandate a fuel blend only for 2010 and up cars… that won’t make much sense to retailers.

  • avatar

    Stop Ethanol Fuel Production!!! There are a billion starving people in the world and we are just using it to make low-rate fuel for cars. Enough! We have to put more effort into looking for other fuel sources. But of course, Big Oil companies and the people they pay are not in a rush… Because they have the upper hand and they want to keep it that way.

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