The American Petroleum Institute issued a press release warning motorists about a study of the E15 blend of ethanol and gasoline. Turns out, E15 causes expensive damage to engines:
The additional E15 testing, completed this month, has identified an elevated incidence of fuel pump failures, fuel system component swelling, and impairment of fuel measurement systems in some of the vehicles tested. E15 could cause erratic and misleading fuel gauge readings or cause faulty check engine light illuminations. It also could cause critical components to break and stop fuel flow to the engine. Failure of these components could result in breakdowns that leave consumers stranded on busy roads and highways. Fuel system component problems did not develop in the CRC tests when either E10 or E0 was used. It is difficult to precisely calculate how many vehicles E15 could harm. That depends on how widely it is used and other factors. But, given the kinds of vehicles tested, it is safe to say that millions could be impacted.
In 2010 and 2011, EPA gave the green light to use E15 – the 15 percent ethanol gasoline blend – in model-year-2001-and-later cars and some other vehicles. EPA’s action was irresponsible. EPA knew E15 vehicle testing was ongoing but decided not to wait for the results. Why did EPA move forward prematurely? Part of the answer may be the need to raise the permissible concentration level of ethanol so that greater volumes could be used, as required by the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. Most gasoline sold today is an E10 blend, but rising volume requirements under the law can’t be met much longer without going to higher blends. When Congress passed the law, it could not know it was creating this problem. Today we know. The answer is to repeal the RFS before it puts millions of vehicles and many motorists at risk.
The Coordinating Research Council’s initial tests — first released in May of 2012 — are once again coming to light after further testing proved that delicate components in newer cars were most at risk.
AAA, the recognizable and leading auto club in the U.S., also called for an outright suspension of E15 earlier this month, citing a lack of research:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and gasoline retailers should suspend the sale of E15 gasoline until more is done to protect consumers from the potential for costly auto damage and voided warranties.
Research to date raises serious concerns that E15, a fuel blend consisting of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline, could cause accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel system damage and other problems such as false “check engine” lights.
The potential damage could result in costly repairs for unsuspecting consumers. This is especially tough for most motorists given that only about 40 percent of Americans have enough in savings to afford a major auto repair.
In June, the EPA approved the use of E15, and a handful of gas stations in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas have begun to sell this fuel. There is a strong likelihood that retailers will market E15 in additional states soon unless regulators take immediate action to protect consumers.
Nearly all of the gasoline sold in the United States today is E10, which contains up to ten percent ethanol, primarily produced from corn. The ethanol industry has lobbied hard to increase the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline as a way to increase sales and help meet the Renewable Fuels Standard.
AAA’s concern with E15 is not about ethanol. In fact, AAA believes that ethanol-blended fuels have the potential to save Americans money and reduce the nation’s dependency on fossil fuels. The problem is that available research, including the EPA’s exhaust emissions tests, is not sufficient evidence that E15 is safe to use in most vehicles.
Ethanol producers, backed by politicians reaping ethanol lobbying money, fired back by claiming the study by the CRC was rigged. Senior Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Ron Lamberty, called out AAA as “hypocrites” and alarmists for “turning a blind eye and most likely allowing people to shorten the lives of their vehicles by using unapproved and untested oil-company produced sub-octane gasoline for decades, while loudly attacking thoroughly tested and approved E15 when only a few stations are offering it for sale, is quite unbecoming for an organization that claims it puts the best interests of the American motorist first.”
Last November in California, E15 was outright banned as an option for motorists because, “it would take several years to complete the vehicle testing and rule development necessary to introduce a new transportation fuel into California’s market.”
The results will no doubt speak for themselves when E15 becomes more widespread at gas stations in other states this year. I for one, will avoid it.