The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

RFS: A Classic Problem of Government Mandates

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 11, 2013

The cost of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) hurts American businesses and consumers as ethanol production drives up food prices, higher-ethanol blend fuels get less mileage than conventional gasoline and higher blends can damage to engines both large and small.

The Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) and others associated with classic cars are especially concerned with the impact on engines that weren’t designed for fuels containing ethanol – much less higher-ethanol blends – at a time when ethanol-free fuel is getting harder to find because the RFS-driven ethanol “blend wall” is forcing E0 gasoline out of the market, reducing choice for consumers. More on ethanol and the RFS from their perspective:

“Government studies show, at higher blend levels, ethanol's chemical properties cause corrosion, reduce fuel economy, burn hotter and can wreak havoc with fuel mixtures and injectors (in historic/legacy vehicles)." – HVA

"Ethanol-blended gasoline decreases gas mileage by 3 to 5 percent at 10-percent ethanol blend and worse at higher blends - increasing costs to consumers." – HVA

"Research shows that 29 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is contained in ethanol." – HVA

"Ethanol can never realistically become a large enough share of our energy to make a difference.  Even if we increased ethanol production by 1,000 percent it would only account for one percent of the total energy consumption in the U.S." – HVA

"The key problem is that ethanol absorbs water from the atmosphere. In fact, fuel with 10 percent ethanol absorbs up to 50 times more water than standard gasoline. Older gas tanks found in many classic cars vent to the atmosphere, increasing the likelihood that moisture will be absorbed into the gas tank at a rapid pace." – Moss Motors

"The end result of water in the fuel is phase separation. The fuel separates into two distinct layers: a thick layer of gasoline mixed with a little ethanol on top, and a thinner layer on the bottom consisting of water mixed with most of the ethanol. And it doesn’t take much water for this to happen—phase separation occurs in a gallon of 10 percent ethanol blend with just 3.8 teaspoons of water." – Moss Motors

"Ethanol ... 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." – Hemmings Daily

For more information on the damage ethanol, particularly phase-separated ethanol, can cause to classic cars, you can watch this HVA video.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.