Jane Van Ryan
Posted October 13, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today approved the use of E15, a fuel blend consisting of 85 percent gasoline and 15 percent ethanol, for 2007 and newer vehicles. The announcement, which had been hinted at for several weeks, prompted observers to wonder whether the agency has put politics--and the mid-term election--before science.
The EPA made the announcement long before the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) could complete its tests on the durability of engines operating on fuel blends containing more than 10 percent ethanol. The scientists have been initially running tests with a 20 percent ethanol blend as they study engines' tolerance for ethanol. Some engines have failed at 20 percent, including two 2007 models. These will require further testing at 15 percent, which will be completed early next year. The interim research results are summarized below:
"It is disappointing that the EPA did not wait until the testing process was complete to determine if higher levels of ethanol are safe," said API's Director of Downstream Operations Bob Greco. "EPA needs to make sure that a new fuel is safe for consumers. Rushing through this new fuel standard without complete research may be good politics but is bad public policy."
In a statement, Bob added that most vehicle warranties cover only gasoline with up to 10 percent ethanol, and the use of higher ethanol blends could void customer warranties. Warranties for small engines such as chainsaws and lawnmowers often contain similar language. Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) Executive Vice President Kris Kiser told reporters today, "The Department of Energy's own testing has shown that putting anything other than E10 in non-road, small engines can cause performance irregularities and equipment failure."
But EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said today she reviewed the Energy Department's tests on engines and emissions. "Thorough testing has now shown that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks," she said. "Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America's vehicles, this administration takes those steps."
"The oil and natural gas industry is committed to the use of renewable fuels properly integrated into the energy mix," Bob Greco said. "API members have invested or committed over $13 billion in biofuels. However, EPA needs to be thorough in its examination of the impacts of higher levels of ethanol on both engines and gasoline station equipment."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.