Will E15 Become the Law of the Land?
New fuel could pose problems for some engines.
Changes may be coming to a gasoline pump near you if federal regulators and the ethanol lobby have their way. Both groups are pushing for a higher blend of ethanol fuel to be mixed in with gasoline, a concoction that will equal 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent straight gasoline, best known as E15 fuel. That fuel, however, is not without controversy: car manufacturers are calling upon the Environmental Protection Agency to back off, claiming that vehicles using this fuel could suffer engine damage, effectively voiding owners’ car warranties.
The push to E15 comes from a group of midwestern farmers and ethanol producers responsible for growing corn and converting it into fuel. Today, more than 90 percent of all pumps offer E10 fuel, a relatively harmless byproduct. However, automakers warn that increasing that number to E15 could cause serious problems for some engines, something the EPA acknowledges, but only for older vehicles.
Indeed, gasoline pumps will be affixed with a sticker declaring that the new fuel is only for use in model year 2001 and newer vehicles or for any flex-fuel vehicle. Flex fuel vehicles contain special fuel lines that resist the corrosive nature of E85 fuel which consists of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent straight gasoline. Therefore, these vehicles can run on any combination of gas and ethanol safely. Not so with older vehicles and, according to the automakers, newer vehicles too.
The EPA has the broad support of the Obama administration, which is looking for ways to reduce America’s dependency on foreign sources of fuel. However, the risk of using E15 is apparent as even the EPA concedes that some vehicles and engines cannot handle it. The EPA has said that the new fuel isn’t for use in motorcycles nor is it for certain off-road vehicles such as snowmobiles and all terrain vehicles. Moreover, consumers are being warned not to include E15 in their lawnmowers, snow blowers or leaf blowing equipment.
Members of Congress are looking at the problem closely and may stop or delay the EPA from allowing E15 fuel. One way that may be accomplished is to defund ethanol subsidies, effectively cutting the legs out from underneath the industry.
If E15 becomes law, consumers will find out fairly fast if their engines are adversely affected. While a home grown fuel is certainly welcome, mandating its use in engines not outfitted properly seems not only misguided, but foolish.