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Increasing ethanol in gasoline: Part 1

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Environmental and industry groups that frequently oppose each other on a broad range of policy issues are launching a joint campaign calling on Congress to require through and objective scientific testing before allowing an increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline.

Raising strong concerns about consumer safety and environmental protection, the groups have joined forces to sponsor an ad with the tagline ‘Say NO to untested E15’ as part of an effort to persuade Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency to reject calls by some in the ethanol industry to allow the amount of ethanol in gasoline to increase by 50%.

Most gasoline sold in the US contains 10% ethanol (E10). Some ethanol lobbyists are seeking to boost that to 15% (E15), or to compromise with a boost to 12% (E12).

The groups are contacting members of Congress and have posted their first ad and other material warning against higher levels o ethanol without adequate testing on the website

The first ad began running on 22nd July in Politico and Roll Call (Print and Web) and will continue in these publications and Congress Daily throughout this week. More ads are expected to follow later.

Ethanol burns hotter than gasoline and corrodes soft metals, plastics and rubber. The groups collectively believe more testing is needed to determine how much ethanol is too much for different types of existing engines to use safely without risking engine failure that could leave a boat stranded at sea, a snowmobile stuck in subfreezing temperatures in a wilderness blizzard, or a motorcycle unable to move in the blazing heat of a desert.

The NPRA comments

‘Some ethanol companies want consumers to pump first and ask questions later,’ said National Petrochemical & Refiners Association President (NPRA) Charles T. Drevna. ‘Rather than run a giant science experiment on the vehicles and gasoline powered equipment owned by just about every American family, we believe Congress and the EPA have a responsibility to protect the public. They shouldn’t authorise  E15 unless full and complete scientific testing confirms it’s safe and compatible with all gasoline powered engines.’

The ad

The sponsors of the ad are: Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Hispanic Institute, Engine Manufacturers Association, International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, Motorcycle Industry Council, National Marin Manufacturers Association, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, American Frozen Food Institute, American Meat Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, Snack Food Association, American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Truck Stop Operators and NPRA.

The ad is illustrated by four colour photos of people next to stalled vehicles and equipment, a snowmobile, a car, a riding lawnmower and a boat, under the headline ‘Don’t let the ethanol industry leave you stranded.’

‘Congress shouldn’t rush to judgment based on politics,’ the ad says. ‘It should wait for the completion of thorough and objective scientific tests and act to protect your safety and our environment.

‘Increasing hot burning ethanol from 10% (E10) to 15% (E15) of gasoline could harm some engines,’ the ad continues. ‘E15 has never been thoroughly tested to determine if it’s safe for engines in the cars, boars and outdoor power equipment used by millions of Americans every day.’

Other concerns

The groups also raise other concerns about increasing ethanol in gasoline.

‘As environmentalists and public health advocates, we’re concerned that more corn ethanol in our gasoline would lead to more dangerous pollutants coming out our tailpipes and ending up in our lungs, cause more forests to be cut down for planting, put fragile lands under the tractor and use up scarce water resources,’ said Nathanael Greene, director of renewable energy policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

‘None of the 200 million pieces of outdoor power equipment in use today were designed, built or warranted to run on any fuel containing more than 10% ethanol,’ said Kris Kiser, executive vice president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. ‘DOE testing of E15 on existing outdoor power equipment demonstrated increased heat, performance irregularities, unintentional clutch engagement and failure. It is imperative that all testing is complete on E15 before its introduction into the fuels marketplace to protect consumers’ safety and economic interests.’

‘Increasing the consumption of corn based ethanol by 50% will increase food and feed prices, driving up costs for meat and poultry producers and ultimately consumers,’ said American Meat Institute President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle. ‘ This controversial decision certainly warrants careful and thoughtful examination considering the many negative consequences increasing the blend will have.’

The Department of Energy (DOE) is currently conducting limited testing of the ability of pollution control equipment in some cars to function with E15, and EPA may make a decision allowing E15 in late model cars in September.

However, the DOE tests to not cover critical areas including: engine durability, tolerance of the ‘check engine’ light, durability of other components such as the fuel pump and the fuel level sensor, and the problem of fuel vapours leaking out of an idle car, parked with the engine off, sitting outside on a hot sunny day.

Extensive testing in all of these areas where DOE is not conducting its own testing is well underway, with the knowledge of both EPA and DOE, by the privately funded Coordinating Research Council. However, those extensive scientific tests will note be completed for several years.


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