Ethanol

Revised Oct, 2020

Multiple state, federal bills introduced to stop the spread of E15

By Daniel Strohl on Mar 23rd, 2017 www.hemmings.com

Despite the ongoing rollout of E15 fuel nationwide, a handful of bills introduced in legislatures in D.C. and elsewhere aim to put a halt to sale of the fuel blamed for causing damage to older vehicles.

The most extreme of those bills, H.R. 1314, which Virginia Representative Robert Goodlatte introduced, calls for the elimination of the Renewable Fuel Standard, the portion of the Clean Air Act enacted in 2005 that provides for minimum volumes of renewable fuels – everything from corn-based ethanol to biodiesel – to be blended into the country’s fuel supply. The bill has since been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

At the same time, Goodlatte introduced H.R. 1315, the RFS Reform Act of 2017, which would keep ethanol blending amounts at current levels and ban the the production and sale of any fuel with a blend of more than 10 percent ethanol. The bill essentially resurrects two similar bills that Goodlatte introduced in prior sessions of Congress and that died in committee. Like H.R. 1314, H.R. 1315 has since been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Similarly, H.R. 119, the Leave Ethanol Volumes at Existing Levels Act, which Texas Representative Michael Burgess introduced in January, would cap ethanol fuel blends at 10 percent. Burgess, too, introduced similar legislation in the prior session of Congress that died in committee. H.R. 119 also currently resides in the hands of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

On the state level, Georgia’s senate has seen two measures to restrict ethanol-blended fuel sales in the state. The first, S.B. 115, calls for the prohibition of all ethanol-blended fuels while the second, Senate Resolution 205, asks the U.S. Congress to eliminate all requirements for the use of ethanol as a fuel. Similar wording in both the bill and the resolution points to ethanol-caused corrosion as the main reason for banning the fuel:

“High-performance specialty parts, along with older cars and parts, may be most susceptible to such corrosion,” the resolution reads. “There is limited access to unblended gasoline for engines that may be damaged by ethanol, including collector vehicles, off-road vehicles, motorcycles, or small engines.”

Both have since been referred to the state’s Senate Committee on Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.

Approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in June 2012, E15 is now available in about 500 gas stations in the United States, largely in the upper Midwest, according to the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. About 3,200 stations sell E85 over a wider geographic distribution.

In its final numbers for 2017, the EPA mandated 19.28 billion gallons of ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply, making up about 10.7 percent of the total supply.

 


 

E15 ethanol is coming, like it or not. Here’s what you need to know

By Jim Koscs, Mar 20, 2019 for Hagerty

Owners of collector cars, or any vehicle built before 2001, beware: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finalizing a rule approving the sale of E15 gasoline year-round, so use extra care when gassing up this summer.

In the United States, ninety-eight percent of gasoline sold already contains some amount of ethanol. Cars produced in the past two decades or so generally have no problem burning the common E10 blend, which contains 10 percent ethanol. Some stations have offered E15, which bumps the amount of ethanol to 15 percent, since 2005, but the EPA had previously banned its sale during the summer amid concerns that it contributed to the creation of smog. The EPA is poised to rescind the ban and make E15 available throughout the year under a rule it could finalize by June 1.

The change won’t happen overnight, and you’ll still be able to get E10. Still, motorists will want to be mindful when filling up. Not all cars can handle the higher concentration of ethanol, which can gum up fuel systems and cause corrosion in cars that haven’t been designed to burn it.

The good news for new-car buyers is that the number of cars approved for E15 has increased for 2019, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, which represents ethanol producers. Among the holdouts are BMW, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Mazda and Volvo. Oddly, the BMW-made Mini is approved for 2019. A few Mercedes models are available as FlexFuel models, which can use up to E85.

When in doubt about a new or late-model car, call the brand’s customer assistance center, if one is provided. The holdouts will inevitably need to approve E15.

What’s ethanol?

Ethanol is a simple alcohol that, when added to gasoline, acts as an oxygenate. Federal regulations have mandated ethanol-blended gasoline to reduce carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, and particulate emissions while increasing the use of renewable fuels. It’s a topic that can spark heated debate, so we’re not delving into the economic, environmental, and political machinations.

Yet, even if the ethanol had not been mandated, fuel producers would still use it because it is a cheap, and safe, octane booster. Pure ethanol has an octane rating of 130.

The EPA has approved E15 for use in cars built since 2001, but automakers, do not necessarily agree that the older cars should use it. Owners of collector cars, though, should avoid using E15 in any vehicle that hasn’t been modified to handle it.

Don’t panic

There’s no need to panic, but you’ll want to be vigilant. If you own a car built since 2012, check the owner’s manual to see if you can use E15. If the manual doesn’t specifically say it’s OK, avoid using it.

Any gas pumps dispensing ethanol should have a sticker affixed that explicitly identifies the ethanol content of the gasoline. If you don’t see it, ask a gas station employee. If you live in New Jersey and many parts of Oregon, where attendants do the pumping, make sure they use the right one.

Collector cars and alcohol: A bad mix

Using gasoline with a higher concentration of ethanol than the automaker recommends could damage metal and plastic parts. This is especially true in older cars, which can experience other problems associated with burning alcohol. Ethanol absorbs moisture more easily than gasoline, which can cause corrosion problems in fuel tanks and gum up filters and carburetors. It also can dissolve rust in the fuel tank, which could then find its way into the fuel system.

Owners can avoid problems by install ethanol-compatible fuel lines, fittings, filters, and other parts. For winter storage, use only ethanol-compatible gas-storage additives.

If you want to avoid ethanol altogether, look for small vendors that sell pure gasoline. You can usually find them at or near marinas, drag strips and small airports. Check pure-gas.org for user-updated lists of such places in the U.S. and Canada. That said, these smaller vendors are getting harder to find (and tend to charge much more), so call ahead before driving to one.

 


 

More on Ethanol

Automakers have filed a lawsuit against the EPA’s decision to make E15 (gasoline with 15 percent alcohol) legal for all cars after 2007. They argue that, among other problems, the blend could damage the engine. Wait, moonshiners used to run their cars on 190-proof hooch. Can ethanol really do damage to an engine? Yes. Here’s how >>