A few days ago, a federal appeals court gave approval for the EPA, despite opposition from consumer groups, vehicle manufacturers, and the entire automotive industry, to approve nationwide usage of E15 Flex-fuel.
If it sounds familiar, you probably have heard of E85 ethanol. It’s the federal standard blend for flex-fuel vehicles in the United States, and it gets the number from blending 15% gasoline with 85% ethanol — hence, E85. The blend is optimal because it is much easier to adapt a conventional gasoline system for ethanol if there is a bit of gasoline in the mix.
Of course, there are E100 cars (which run totally on ethanol), but not in the United States. They’re in countries like Brazil where ethanol is typically cheaper than gasoline. Here, ethanol is a government subsidized false economy, with one fringe benefit: national security. Ethanol can help pad our emergency fuel reserves if there ever is another oil embargo.
The problem is the EPA has clearance now to put E15 into gas stations. You may know it or not, but a lot of fuel today has a little ethanol – up to 10% of your gasoline at most stations can have ethanol in it. Tests have shown that most cars made since 1998 are fine with a little bit of ethanol, and older vehicles won’t lose too many miles to the carbon deposits that are generated.
But that small change from 10% ethanol to 15% ethanol can be disastrous… if your car can’t handle it. Guess how many cars in America can’t handle it. Thirty percent? Forty percent?
Try eighty-eight percent. That’s right. 88%.
In fact, even the EPA says running E15 in a car made before 2001 can be disastrous… not for the car, they don’t seem as concerned about that, but for the environment. Pre-2001 cars can burn E15 so hot that the emissions can be like setting off a mini CO2 bomb outside your car’s tailpipe.
I, however, am more concerned about your car turning into a clunker.
Running E15 on cars today can cause carbon deposits to build up in engines, the industry knows it is bad for them too. That’s why they’re fighting to stop E15 so aggressively. When your car dies prematurely, they’re the ones going to get blamed… regardless of how much they’re lobbying to stop this change from happening.
The EPA’s mixed messages on E15 may lead many to believe that 2001-2013 vehicles can handle E15 fine. They can’t. If you own any car today, you need to check first to make sure it can handle E15. Your vehicle manual should say that it can handle E15 if so, if not, call your manufacturer or dealer to check first.
Finally, know before you pump. Many expect that gas pumps will have an “E15” button – separate from the sub-E15 octane labelings on pumps (regular, premium, etc). I’m not so sure that will happen. With E10 today you see a small square box on pumps that say “this pump may dispense up to 10% ethanol” – most consumers, even ones driving pre-1998 cars, don’t know what that means… or what it may be doing to their cars.
Even if it does, this will create chaos to the fuel supply should it be constrained. Imagine in a natural disaster or fuel stoppage, not being able to pump gas into your car because they’re out of the “regular” gas, but have plenty of the E15 gas. This is fragmentation over a tiny percentage of ethanol, something that benefits nobody than corn farmers.
Let’s not forget, ethanol actually harms the environment more than gasoline. That’s right, even Al Gore has come to that conclusion. It’s an environmental scam. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate ethanol. It’s great in Brazil. It’s great if the Middle East cuts off our oil imports. It’s dirt cheap as an alternative to 100 octane gasoline for sport cars… It’s stupid for just about everything else.
The automotive industry has gone so far as to appeal to the Supreme Court on this one. I doubt they will be successful, but I wish them the best. The industry was not given enough time to adapt cars for E15, and the EPA’s mixed messages will confuse some consumers. Plus, we have no idea how E15 pumps will be labeled… and how many cars will be fried in the process until consumers learn that costly mistake, which they shouldn’t be burdened with in the first place.
Finally, I do not see the need for the E15 standard to begin with, other than to appease the ethanol subsidy farmers, who are finding E85 flex-fuel uptake too slow. E85 sure isn’t cheap out here in California, most gas stations you wind up paying a premium after factoring in the MPG loss from E85 versus gasoline. Even worse, most E85 cars don’t perform a horsepower adjustment for the uptake in octane that E85 delivers. My Pontiac G6 runs no faster on ethanol than it does on gasoline.
Note: Most Pontiac G6 models are not E85 (let alone E15) capable. As mentioned earlier in the article — check your manual, and then your dealer before touching the stuff!
E85 flex-fuel has a purpose in national security. E15 serves no purpose but to cause a new Cash for Clunkers bailout.
This artical is full of misinformation and our right lies! Ethanol is not subsidized and will not harm your engine. Ethanol burns cooler not hotter!
I would like to see your sources. This blog post is full fallacies. Ethanol burns cleaner and cooler than gasoline. E15 has been approved by the EPA for 2001 and new vehicles, there is no mixed message about it. 2001 and newer vehicles represent 75% of the vehicles on the road today and 85% of miles driven. E15 is a choice, not a mandate. Ethanol is not subsidized. In fact, the only liquid fuel subsidized today is oil. There was 6 million miles of testing on E15 before it became available with no ill effects. And, there has been over 30 million miles driven by consumers on E15 with no ill effects. Nascar has run over 4 million miles on E15! Ethanol is higher octane, higher performance, cleaner burning, AMERICAN MADE fuel.
Oh gawd, here come the Ethanol police. Don’t bother responding to these morons Chris.
Most of these comments were copied and pasted from talking points. Trying to mince words between ethanol and corn-grower subsidies and trying to claim that NASCAR has anything to do with the damaging effects of E15… are false premises.
E15 wreaks havoc on cars pre-2001, and on cars 2001-2013 that can’t handle it, which are most of them. People should know that.
Please go away Ethanol lobbyist trolls. I’d like to see who’s paying you.