Table of Contents
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.
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.
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.
Like it or not, ethanol in gas is here to stay
Taken from Hemmings Motor News and distributed by the National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada Corp. www.naacc.ca
Jim O’Clair’s recent post in Hemmings on zinc levels in modern oils led to a discussion about the other fluids we put in our collector cars – particularly how those fluids have changed since the cars were new. In that spirit, we asked him to take a look at the technical aspects of ethanol in modern gasoline and how ethanol affects older cars. This story is not meant to discuss the political implications of ethanol in gasoline, and we ask that anybody who comments on the story refrain from discussing politics. Thank you.
Like it or not, ethanol in gas is here to stay. Although it does reduce pollution in our atmosphere, it can cause problems for many collector cars, boats, and older outdoor power equipment because of some of the side effects related to its use.
When people talk about ethanol in today’s pump gas, they’re referring to E10, which is a formulation that contains 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol. Car manufacturers are now building engines that can run on 51 to 83 percent ethanol, which is often called E85 or flex fuel.
Ethanol is refined from grain alcohol; most specifically, corn, here in the United States; but it can also be made from switch grass, manure, willow trees, and even sugar cane in some countries.
The use of ethanol will only increase. Federal law mandates that the U.S. use 36 billion gallons of alternative fuel per year by 2022. By comparison, the United States used only 11 billion gallons in 2010, and the requirement in the law is that we ramp up to 15 billion gallons per year in 2015. The only way we would get there is to buy more gas – which is unlikely to happen, given the cost of a gallon these days – or increase the ethanol content in each gallon. Unless your car’s owner’s manual states specifically that it is an E85 or Flex Fuel vehicle (if you don’t know for sure, check the eighth digit of your VIN), you cannot use E85 fuels.
Pros of ethanol-supplemented fuel:
- Ethanol is clean-burning and is a higher-octane fuel than conventional gas.
- Ethanol is produced from renewable sources.
- Ethanol-powered vehicles produce lower carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions, and lower levels of hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions.
- Ethanol production keeps American farmers in business and creates new farming and ethanol-processing jobs.
- Because ethanol is produced domestically, it reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil and increases the nation’s energy independence.
- Ethanol needs fewer fossil (coal) and petroleum (gas) fuels to produce more BTU of energy than gasoline (although it does require much more water).
Cons of ethanol-supplemented fuel:
- Ethanol creates 34 percent less energy than unadulterated gasoline per gallon. This equals a loss in fuel economy of up to 3 miles per gallon for E10 fuels. In terms of heat, ethanol produces 76,330 BTU per gallon, whereas diesel fuel produces 128,450 BTU per gallon, gasoline 116,090 BTU per gallon and LP gas 84,950 BTU per gallon. The fuel economy gets even worse with E85, a loss of 7 to 8 miles per gallon with its higher ethanol content. Consumer Reports, testing in 2006, verified a loss in fuel economy of up to 30 percent in a Chevy Tahoe designed to run on flex fuel when it was tested with both unleaded gas and E85. Poor fuel economy can also be attributed to improper fuel system calibration based on computer feedback from oxygen sensors because of the temperatures needed to burn ethanol.
- Virtually any grain considered feedstock can be used to make ethanol, but some grains are better for producing ethanol than others. Corn happens to be one of the worst grains for making ethanol but we produce so much more of it than any other grain that it was the ingredient of choice for U.S. ethanol producers. In South America, ethanol is produced from sugar cane, which is easier to refine and gives a higher yield per acre than corn (1,200 gallons per acre vs. 300 gallons per acre of corn). The U.S. government did impose a 55 cents per gallon tariff to prevent the import of sugar cane-based ethanol into the United States, though that tariff has recently expired).
- Ethanol is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water more easily than gasoline. That leads to water condensation inside fuel tanks, carburetor fuel bowls and fuel lines where air spaces are present. Water content in fuel will also swell up the paper filter media inside fuel filters not specifically designed for flex fuels and can thus restrict fuel flow at the filter.
- Ethanol also erodes fiberglass tanks, rubber hoses and plastic fuel lines. It contributes to rust in fuel systems by creating condensation in the unfilled portion of gas tanks. It will also dissolve varnish and rust in steel fuel components. These dissolved ingredients sit in the bottom of gas tanks until they are removed or they will enter the fuel system if the fuel level in the tank gets too low.
So what is a classic car owner to do? Especially when their car is sitting unused in the garage more than it is on the road? It has been stated that you can counteract the poor fuel mileage by driving at a consistent speed of between 40 and 60 MPH but that doesn’t really apply to boats or classic cars that are parked or do not have cruise control in most cases.
Several recommendations of things you can do that should help come from OE marine manufacturers who have been battling these ethanol-related fuel problems:
- Replace any plastic or rubber fuel lines with ethanol-resistant hose or nylon tubing.
- Install a water separator filter in the fuel line leading to the carburetor. Water collects in the filter and can be removed periodically.
- Replace any fiberglass tanks with steel or aluminum.
- Ensure that any O-rings in the fuel system are also ethanol-compatible.
- Keep your tank as full as possible to prevent air space where condensation can form.
- Use specific ethanol-compatible fuel storage additives. These are normally blue in color. Regular fuel stabilizers will not work unless they are labeled ethanol fuel-compatible.
- Shop around for a marina or service station that does not pump E10 or E85. None of these stations will be affiliated with a major gasoline producer, but there are still some out there, especially in areas around lakes and rivers where boating is popular. You can find a “pure gas” map of many of these stations online at www.pure-gas.org
- Vent your fuel system during storage for extended periods; the moisture your fuel system might absorb from the outside will be less than the moisture created in the air space inside.
- Use a fogging solution in your carburetor during storage to prevent condensation from collecting in fuel bowls.
- Use of isopropyl alcohol-based dry gas will help to absorb system moisture. Regular dry gas is ethanol-based and will only make the problem worse. Isopropyl-based additives actually combine with the water molecules and removing moisture through the combustion chamber.
- Use of a flex fuel-compatible fuel filter where possible will prevent degradation of the paper media in your filter by water in the fuel system.
- SEMA has also made ethanol in gasoline one of its legislative priorities, opposing the pending rollout of E15 fuel. For more information on that effort, visit www.SEMASAN.com
SEMA and the NAACC have also made ethanol in gasoline one of their legislative priorities, opposing the pending rollout of E15 fuel. For more information on that effort, visit www.SEMASAN.com
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 >>