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A little search for recent stories on the fate of E15 (gasoline with 15 percent ethanol blended in) in the U.S. shows how the tide seems to be turning in favor of expansion of the biofuel here. The EPA is considering it, the Minnesota Ag Department says E20 is just fine for fuel pumps, the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, supports a E15 or E20 blend, and Underwriters Laboratories said it will allow E15 in UL87 pumps. With all the push for E15, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, a lot of things. The latest comes from the Wall Street Journal, which points out that most automobile warranties clearly state that only ethanol blends up to ten percent (E10) are covered (flex fuel vehicles being excepted, of course). If the nation's gasoline supply becomes full of E15, then who's responsible for fixing something when it breaks? While automakers are cautious (with good reason), American farmers are pushing for the higher ethanol blend. After all, about 25 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. already goes into the biofuel but the ethanol industry is still in trouble. A bigger slice of the pie would mean more demand for the yellow grain.

[Source: WSJ]
Photo by Frapestaartje. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.


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  • 20 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      The ethanol these farmers produce is a scam. It uses as much energy to make (per Joule it contains) as gas does. They are just basically doing the equivalent of buying gas, marking it up and selling it back to us, except for we have to modify our equipment to even use it after they're done doing so!

      Vilsack needs to put the country's needs ahead of his home state's needs and stop this nonsense. There's no point to mandating increased ethanol if it is just going to come from corn. It doesn't increase our energy independence and it increases the cost of food.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually ethanol--especially from corn--is a net drain on energy. It costs far more in energy to produce it than what we can get out of it. It actually increases our dependency on fossil fuel.
        The govt and automakers are trying to use ethanol for green-washing, but in reality it's nothing but a subsidy to the corn farmers.
      • 5 Years Ago
      As a compromise, why not use E15 87 AKI regular, E5 93 AKI premium, and use a 50/50 mixed mid-grade E10 90 AKI?

      If some car company doesn't want to step up and continue to honor the warranty, then they can strongly advise against anything above E10.

      If someone was didn't want to use E15, then they can move up a grade to avoid any possible headache.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I am running 50% ethanol in my 2.5l Jeep engine. No problems so far.
      • 5 Years Ago
      And again, my point for those who don't want to read a lot is that going beyond E10 will harm some peoples expensive equipment, from tractors, snow throwers, chain saws, small moter cycles, wood chippers and so on. I do support ethanol, but would hope they'd offer a pump with E10 in the future. Sounds like they will go to E15 and not even worry what it does to equipment and without offering a way to still get E10. Again my new tractor already states it won't accept more than E10 and it was built in 2009.
      harlanx6
      • 5 Years Ago
      Although better than importing oil, corn ethanol is not a very good solution. There are just too many unintended consequences. Ethanol from sources that don't require the use of food producing farmland are better. If we can't get the cost of production of the alcohols down to where they are favorable economically, people are going to resist conversion and heavy handed government action would be required (like the article indicates), which probably would result is us throwing the bums out in the next election.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is like the government mandating vehicle owners to intentionally do things that may damage it. Where I live in Canada, I see that many fuel pumps now have a disclaimer indicating that the fuel may include ethanol.

      If 95+% of cars aren't specifically designed for ethanol, why force these fuels upon people? What happens if you put in a measly 10% diesel into gasoline? It probably won't kill a gas engine, but I'm sure it's not good for it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "If 95+% of cars aren't specifically designed for ethanol"

        95% of cars are designed for Ethanol, E10 anyway. Where I live, we've had E10 forced down our throats for a number of years. In speaking with service departments, there is not a significant number of Ethanol related repairs.

        I've said it a dozen times (though Carney doesn't get my sarcasm), I think Ethanol gets a bum rap. It's a capable fuel that we can produce here. It has some issues, but generally fewer issues than any other alternative method of automotive propulsion. Hopefully, these issues can be worked out over time. People seem eager to hate Ethanol.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think this approach is a mistake for ethanol advocates.

      People resent beng force-fed anything, no matter how good for them it is. They (especially if they are innumerate, suspicious of science, or politically extremist) then can fall prey to cranks, yahoos, or demagogues who whip up fear and anger. Look at mandatory vaccination/immunization and the fluoridation of water.

      The perception or reality of being forced to use ethanol will stir up opposition to it among people who would otherwise not have cared one way or the other about it, thereby slowing, not speeding, our transition toward an alcohol economy and away from petroleum.

      A better strategy is to mandate that all new cars sold in America be fully flex-fueled, able to run on gasoline of course but also on high alcohol blends like E85 (85% ethanol) or M85 (85% methanol) or even pure alcohol.

      That would open up a huge market for ethanol without having to mess with the formula of gasoline and all the misunderstandings, emotion, and tiresome (immediately ignored) explanations that would cause.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm not sure where the controversy is here. Because when I read the waiver, it seemed to clearly state that it was giving gas companies THE OPTION to sell E15. It is NOT A MANDATE to make every gas station sell only E15. Since there are already blender pumps, I really don't see the problem. If you don't want E15 because of your warranty, or whatever, shop for your gas at a station that has E10 or less, and quit getting in the way of other folks buying E15.

      I'm not sure why the folks who are against this think it is a mandate. Mindless fear? Or was there something I missed in the waiver?

      As for the cost of food compared to ethanol production: Sure producing ethanol has SOME kind of impact on food prices. But were the food commodity price jumps and EXCLUSIVE and DIRECT impact from producing more ethanol? Heck no. There were so many other variables in play, that those who claim the prices of food have gone up just due to ethanol just look silly. Because you would have to overlook the effect of all of these following things, and pretend that the spike in food costs was all just because of ethanol:

      1) Food Commodity markets were bid up by speculators (just like the oil commodity market).
      2) The minimum wage went up.
      3) Ag-biz sector profits were up (Ag companies were taking more profits)
      4) Fuel prices were up for farmers.
      5) Flooding in the mid-west, drought in the South
      6) The fight against illegal immigrants actually DID reduce the number of illegal aliens in the US, making farm labor costs go up.
      7) Fertilizer prices were up due to the price of oil
      8) Costs to own a farm, from land costs, property taxes based upon those land values, and Insurance costs are up in most farming areas.
      9) The switch to genetically engineered crops has greatly increased the cost of planting seeds. Before seeds were collected from the previous year's crop, and held back for planting.
      10) Insect and weeds have become more tolerant to traditional cheaper chemicals, so farmers are spending much more per square foot for specialty chemicals specifically designed to go with their genetically engineered crops.

      etc....

      To blame the rise of food costs just upon ethanol, you would have to ignore ALL of these other impacts of food commodity prices. You would also have to ignore that much of the corn crops DOES re-enter the food stream after it is used to make ethanol, as corn mash that is fed to cattle. This by-product of ethanol production actually reduces the demand for regular corn for fattening cattle by nearly as much as ethanol increases the demand.

      Sadly, it takes a farmer in the farm belt to understand all of these impacts. So it isn't surprising that all of the pro-ethanol folks come from farm regions, and the anti-ethanol zealots tend to come from non-farm regions, and oil well regions.

      With ALL of that said, I still believe that corn-ethanol is only good as a bridge to other forms of ethanol production that will be even better. But if for now the best we can do is to create a market and an infrastructure for cellulosic ethanol by using corn ethanol as a transitional fuel, then it is still worth it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Exactly right it's not a mandate for 15%. As I stated where I live I can get any fuel from E0 to E85 and two blends in between.

      Don't like ethanol? Don't use it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't have any other choice but to use e-10 unless I pay a premium at marinas.
      • 5 Years Ago

      Some good comments here, BUT I think many have missed the point of the article by going down a path talking about whether or not ethanol reduces dependency on foreign sources or has less energy than gasoline etc. I support the idea of ethanol and/or any other ways to improve our situation.... BUT the point here is about warranties and more. I never would have given it any thought what so ever if our family hadn't invested in two tractors. One is a John Deere and the other an Ariens for cutting lawns at two homes.

      I just got a 2009 tractor this week and when I opened the hood, it has a warning sticker near the fuel tank that says not to use any gasoline with over 10% ethanol. And I'm sure the other tractor that's 9 years older is no different. One a Kohler engine and the other Briggs. Tractors can last a long, long time if properly maintained along with regular oil changes. I'm very good when it comes to taking care of them. You can expect 15, 20, 25 years out of one if you are very careful. But at least 15 is no problem. My nearly 10 year old one acts and runs like the day I bought it. And the new one is, well new of course.

      So I'd hate to think that I could mess up either the fuel system or engine on either of them due to being forced into using 15% or higher ethanol. Ethanol supporters will kind of blindly tell me, "ah, it won't really hurt it"... But that's because they really want to support it regardless of the outcome and many didn't just pay for some expensive tractors either. I have read articles and found out that fuel lines can slowly dissolve as a result of ethanol. Seals in the engine can also be ruined and so on. I've read about people who have had major problems with snow throwers, chain saws, boats, moter cycles and so on.. But it's usually small equipment. So the risk is a very real one even if my car won't mind a bit.

      Now look at the fact that just a few years back, it was pretty easy to avoid buying ethanol branded gas. But now, I can't avoid the 10%. And it works great in my tractor. . But again, that warning says no more than 10% and that's the new one. The old one may be pushing the envelope even more depending on how the fuel system is set up. But point is that it has changed all to 15%. So, I'm not against E10, but the push for 15% and 20% has me and many others worried about their equipment. I don't mind if we have E15, but there is always a pump that has E10 for fueling my equipment. But it sounds like they will just do away with the E10 all together. To me that's a problem.

      So I can see why some people are worried about not only their warranties but their machines. In fact, forget the warranties. Most people have tractors and other equipment that can't handle E15 that is older than 2 years any way. No one wants to be forced to go out and spend an extra $1500 to $2500 on a new tractor, not because the tractor was bad, but just because they changed the fuel. And that would really stink in our family. I'd need a new one. My Dad would need one too. Our snow thrower would be dead and the chain saw useless. It would be a few years before we replaced them all. So yes, I'm worried about ruining the equipment. And I'm sure it will eventually affect other people here and/or people they know.


      • 5 Years Ago
      1. Bag ethanol.
      2. Raise CAFE 15%.
      3. Increase petroleum fuel taxes.
      • 5 Years Ago
      In the spirit of the stoner holiday...Why can't we just grow hemp for ethanol production...it is SUCH a better crop for this as opposed to corn...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Here come the uninformed ethanol bashers again.

      Fact 1: Ethanol does not raise the cost of food, but increased fuel costs do. Wanna raise the price of food, then do as Rich says and increase the tax on petroleum!

      Fact 2: Even from CORN, it has a more positive energy yield than does gasoline or diesel! Sugar Cane and Cellulosic bumps it up way beyond where it is from corn.

      Fact 3: Even up to 40 percent blended, it does not harn any fuel injected engine newer than 1998, nor the fuel pumps or lines.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Fallacy 1: Only a select few ethanol boosters claim Ethanol doesn't raise food prices, the world bank study concluded the opposite. That ethanol production had a significant impact in rising food prices.

        Fallacy 2: How do you figure this? It takes a lot less energy to pull oil from a well than it does to plant/fertilize/harvest corn. It takes less energy to refine petroleum than it does to ferment and then refine ethanol.

        Fallacy 3: Cite? How can we tell E40 is harmless if no one is using it? E10 is already damaging marine engines. We should be allowed to buy E0 if want to. Better MPG and no worries about damage, no damage to older engines, marine engines etc. We should not have this boondoggle rammed down our throats.

        The next big kicker for Ethanol expansion will be the obscene water usage consumed its production especially when moving into areas requiring irrigation (2100 Gallons of water for 1 Gallon of Ethanol).



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