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Is EPA protecting you or the Ethanol Lobby?

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Since the days when the international combustion engine began replacing the horse as the principal source of transportation in the US, Americans have counted on getting safe, affordable, efficient and reliable gasoline and diesel fuel whenever they filled up their cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and other vehicles.

You would think that government would want to ensure that manufacturers and retailers of motor fuel continued their long tradition of quality. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency took a disturbing move in the opposite direction earlier this month, and that’s bad news for every American who owns anything fueled with gasoline, including outdoor power equipment.

Under intense pressure from the ethanol lobby, EPA approved a 50% increase in the amount of ethanol that could be blended with gasoline for 2007 and later model cars and light trucks, an increase from the current 10% ethanol (E10) to 15% ethanol (E15).

Many journalists have reported that EPA’s action just three weeks before the midterm elections was a clear move to boost the fortunes of Corn Belt Democrats running for elective office. Sadly, EPA abandoned its true mission and became both the Environmental Politics Agency and the Ethanol Promotion Agency.

Many petroleum refiners and retailers are worried that a big jump in ethanol content might lower the quality of our gasoline and threaten the safety of our customers. That’s why we fought so hard, unsuccessfully, to persuade EPA to look out for the best interests of the American consumer. And that’s why we’re considering legal action to seek to overturn EPA’s unwise move, on behalf of the millions of American who buy our gasoline every day.

Thankfully, EPA is not requiring any of us to manufacture of sell E15, yet. But look for the ethanol lobby to demand the sale o E15. If consumers wanted more ethanol in their gasoline, manufacturers would be adding it on their own. Instead, the ethanol industry survives only because of government subsidies and mandates. And no matter how much ethanol is mandated, the ethanol lobby demands more.

One reason for the push to put more ethanol in your gasoline is that Congress has mandated big increases in the amount of biofuels consumed in America. However, Congress never intended to require the use of inadequately tested fuel mixtures that could damage engines. Engine manufacturers need time to adjust.

What’s particularly interesting, and seldom reported in the media, is that the ethanol industry refuses to accept liability for any engine or other damage that increased ethanol in gasoline might cause.

In other words, ethanol producers want to force refiners to put more ethanol in gasoline and want to entice you to use it, but don’t want to accept responsibility for compensating you for damages the ethanol might cause to your vehicle’s powerplant.

If ethanol producers are so confident of the quality of their product, why not stand behind it? Instead, they want to take your money and run. This is not exactly a profile in courage or a model of responsible corporate citizenship.

Too many questions remain unanswered about E15. How many million of Americans will use E15 in older vehicles and in off road vehicles and power equipment? How many will suffer severe engine damage that could leave boaters stranded in stormy seas, snowmobilers stuck in the subfreezing wilderness, and power equipment users injured by overheated equipment that goes out of control?

EPA’s decision to approve the sale of E15 was premature and unwise. Instead of rushing to judgment and asking us to pump first and ask questions later, EPA should support objective research and analysis to follow the science and determine if E15 is in the best interests of the American people.

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