• Jul 27th 2010 at 10:00AM
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Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that its decision to raise the ethanol blend from ten percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15) had been postponed pending further testing. Prior to announcing the postponement, the EPA received reports from automakers suggesting that E15 could be detrimental to modern engines. Rather than act in haste, the EPA determined that in-depth testing of current vehicles could more accurately determine the effects of running E15. While the EPA's reason for postponement sounds logical to us, ethanol blenders, farmers and some politicians were less than pleased with the decision and remain concerned about the ethanol industry as the likelihood of hitting the blend wall draws near.
The EPA is expected to revisit the E15 decision eventually, but in-depth testing could take some time. Environmental and industry groups are now calling on Congress to require thorough scientific testing before increasing the ethanol blend. The groups banded together to create FollowTheScience.org, a site focused on the negative impact of E15. FollowTheScience launched an ad campaign with the tagline "Say NO to untested E15" and its first commercial bangs home the point quite well with these words:
Don't let the ethanol industry leave you stranded. Congress shouldn't rush to judgment based on politics. It should wait for the completion of thorough and objective scientific tests and act to protect your safety and our environment. Increasing hot-burning ethanol from 10% (E10) to 15% (E15) of gasoline could harm some engines. E15 has never been thoroughly tested to determine if it's safe for engines in the cars, boats and outdoor power equipment used by millions of Americans every day.
It's difficult to argue against the need for more testing of E15 and the issues raised by FollowTheScience seem reasonable enough to us. Regardless of whether its E15 or some breakthrough biofuel, testing should always be required, right? Follow the jump for more on the hotly debated topic of E15.
[Source: Follow the Science]


Groups Opposing Increase in Ethanol in Gasoline Launch Campaign Advocating More Scientific Testing

Warn of Possible Safety and Environmental Dangers

WASHINGTON, July 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Environmental and industry groups that frequently oppose each other on a broad range of policy issues are launching a joint campaign calling on Congress to require thorough and objective scientific testing before allowing an increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline.

Raising strong concerns about consumer safety and environmental protection, the groups have joined forces to sponsor an ad with the tagline "Say NO to untested E15" as part of an effort to persuade Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency to reject calls by some in the ethanol industry to allow the amount of ethanol in gasoline to increase by 50 percent.

Most gasoline sold in the United States contains 10 percent ethanol (E10). Some ethanol lobbyists are seeking to boost that to 15 percent (E15), or to compromise with a boost to 12 percent (E12).

The groups are contacting members of Congress and have posted their first ad and other material warning against higher levels of ethanol without adequate testing on the Web site www.FollowtheScience.org.

The first ad will begin running Thursday in Politico and Roll Call (print and Web) and continue in these publications and Congress Daily next week. More ads are expected to follow later.

Ethanol burns hotter than gasoline and corrodes soft metals, plastics and rubber. The groups collectively believe more testing is needed to determine how much ethanol is too much for different types of existing engines to use safely without risking engine failure that could leave a boat stranded at sea, a snowmobile stuck in subfreezing temperatures in a wilderness blizzard, or a motorcycle unable to move in the blazing heat of a desert.

"Some ethanol companies want consumers to pump first and ask questions later," said National Petrochemical & Refiners Association President Charles T. Drevna. "Rather than run a giant science experiment on the vehicles and gasoline-powered equipment owned by just about every American family, we believe Congress and the EPA have a responsibility to protect the public. They shouldn't authorize E15 unless full and complete scientific testing confirms it's safe and compatible with all gasoline-powered engines."

The sponsors of the ad are: Environmental Working Group; Natural Resources Defense Council; The Hispanic Institute; Engine Manufacturers Association; International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association; Motorcycle Industry Council; National Marine Manufacturers Association; Outdoor Power Equipment Institute; American Frozen Food Institute; American Meat Institute; Grocery Manufacturers Association; Snack Food Association; American Petroleum Institute; National Association of Truck Stop Operators; National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.

The ad is illustrated by four color photos of people next to stalled vehicles and equipment – a snowmobile, a car, a riding lawnmower and a boat – under the headline: "Don't let the ethanol industry leave you stranded."

"Congress shouldn't rush to judgment based on politics," the ad says. "It should wait for the completion of thorough and objective scientific tests and act to protect your safety and our environment.

"Increasing hot-burning ethanol from 10% (E10) to 15% (E15) of gasoline could harm some engines," the ad continues. "E15 has never been thoroughly tested to determine if it's safe for engines in the cars, boats and outdoor power equipment used by millions of Americans every day."

The groups also raise other concerns about increasing ethanol in gasoline.

"As environmentalists and public health advocates, we're concerned that more corn ethanol in our gasoline would lead to more dangerous pollutants coming out our tailpipes and ending up in our lungs, cause more forests to be cut down for planting, put fragile lands under the tractor and use up scarce water resources," said Nathanael Greene, director of renewable energy policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"None of the 200 million pieces of outdoor power equipment in use today were designed, built or warranted to run on any fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol," said Kris Kiser, executive vice president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. "DOE testing of E-15 on existing outdoor power equipment demonstrated increased heat, performance irregularities, unintentional clutch engagement and failure. It is imperative that all testing is complete on E-15 before its introduction into the fuels marketplace to protect consumers' safety and economic interests."

The Department of Energy (DOE) is currently conducting limited testing of the ability of pollution control equipment in some cars to function with E15, and EPA may make a decision allowing E15 in late-model cars in September.

However, the DOE tests do not cover critical areas including: engine durability; tolerance of the "check-engine" light; durability of other components, such as the fuel pump and the fuel level sensor; and the problem of fuel vapors leaking out of an idle car – parked with the engine off – sitting outside on a hot sunny day.

Extensive testing in all of these areas where DOE is not conducting its own testing is well underway – with the knowledge of both EPA and DOE – by the privately funded Coordinating Research Council. However, those extensive scientific tests will not be completed for several years.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      why in the hell are we (and our government) still putting money into ethanol?? it is the complete 180 of green and environmentally friendly... especially with water resources becoming more and more scarce, this ethanol thing boggles my mind. Ethanol also uses more energy is worth it... so why are we still on ethanol?? Because our government subsidizes corn like they subsidize oil. that's why.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Carney, this is not FUD, and I do not work for an oil industry.
        However I do agree with one of your points, and that is that solar cells are insanely expensive. In the beginning I agreed with high feed-in tariffs to jump start the solar industry. However these high feed-in tariffs often have a 20 year life which is way too long and many still exist to-day for people to take advantage of. Solar cell producers are now claiming $1/watt and installers are making enormous profits because they can now buy cheap and still get paid exorbitant rates. It is these political mandates of feed-in-tariffs that is keeping solar energy expensive. Where I live, Ontario Canada, feed-in-tariffs for solar energy vary from $0.10 to $0.40 depending on several conditions. High end for roof-top in city and low end for large out in country installations. I think your figure of $0.50 represents extreme worst case, but even $0.10 is much higher that all other alternatives.
        • 8 Months Ago
        This is sooo inefficient! Lots of gas is used in making ethanol, in the process itself, for farm tractors and trucks. Fertilizer is made from petroleum (natural gas). Ethanol plants are major polluters, but they cleverly put their pollution into the water to meet air pollution requirements. Pesticides are ruining the environment. Without government subsidies this will never be cost effective. An acre of desert covered with solar cells will produce more than 100 times as much energy as an acre of switchgrass or other ethanol plant stock.

        There is just no justification at all for this scandalous waste of resources and money.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Don't buy into anti-ethanol FUD pushed by the oil cartel, extremist Malthusians, and those they have bamboozled.

        There's a reason ethanol gets so much bad press - it's by far and away the biggest non-petroleum alternate fuel, that gets used by normal people in the real world. As such it's a direct threat to the oil cartel.

        The reality is, as a comprehensive study of all published peer reviewed literature has proven, that for every gallon of petroleum expended to make ethanol, you get at least ten and even 20 gallons of ethanol.

        Yes ethanol gets subsidized, but that costs less than $10 billion a year, compared to the hundreds of billions a year we spend on OPEC oil (which OPEC then uses to fund terrorists and other armed groups that make war on us).

        Furthermore, the subsidies only serve to offset our tariffs on cheap foreign ethanol. If we dropped the tariff, we could drop the subsidy too, and the retail price would stay around the same. While that price is a bit higher an a per-mile basis, it's still lower on a per-gallon basis, and given the higher octane, cleaner emissions, and it not funding death cults, a lot of people would go for it.

        If they had the chance. Which is why we need to make ethanol (and methanol) compatibility a standard feature - it costs only $130 per car.

        And while electric cars are interesting for certain uses, solar is a joke, in a class by itself. The third column is the name of the electricity generation method, the second is the percentage of the world electricity market, and the first column is the price in cents per kilowatt hour.

        50 0.04 solar
        07 0.31 wind
        06 0.65 geothermal
        06 1 biomass
        02 16 hydro-electric
        05 16 nuclear
        06 7 oil
        05 19 natural gas
        04 40 coal

        As you can see (if my little plain text chart didn't get scrambled) solar costs about ten times as much other power generation methods.
        • 8 Months Ago
        If I could add because it was in the news lately, the Lockerbie bomber was released in exchange for a 900 million dollar BP oil deal in Libya or it at leased greased the wheels.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Here is an interesting report I read on the oil drum.

      They say ethanol is produces positive net energy, but just barely. Some areas are better suited to growing corn with less fertilizer, pesticides & irrigation, but even in the best areas net energy return on investment is not very encouraging.

      To deliver one liter of ethanol as net energy at an EROI of 1.18 (max found in the spatial analysis), 7.5 liter of ethanol must be produced; 1 liter as net energy and 6.5 liter (or its energy equivalent) to be reinvested to produce more ethanol.

      So thats a lot of energy used in the process of making ethanol and very little energy actually produced to be used, especially considering that most ethanol will be burned in an internal combustion engine that is only 25% efficient.
        • 8 Months Ago
        FYI this new study just reuses the old Pimentel (2003) & Patzek (2004) studies. In which they use the embodied energy value of an enormous 7000 series John Deere tractor. This tractor can plant the whole farm that the calculations are based on in 4 hours. Please review your literature for references to Pimintel and Patzek and do not post the "work" of these "scientists" here. It just makes you look ignorant to believe their blatant pro oil propaganda.
      • 8 Months Ago
      E5 is all that's needed as an oxygenator to replace the poisonous MTBE.

      E10 is overkill for that purpose.

      Drop all subsidies and allow refiners to purchase it on the world market.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I am not opposed to the idea of using ethanol as motor fuel, if it is produced in a sensible and economically feasible manner. BUT ... There are too many older vehicles (and other gasoline engines) that will not run correctly on high percentages of ethanol, and there will be such engines around for a long, long time.

      What's wrong with just making E85 more available and leave normal gasoline at E10, so that people who CAN use it, actually can use it, and it doesn't cause a problem for everyone else?

      I know that around here, although the signs on the pumps have said "up to 10% ethanol" for years, we didn't actually get much ethanol until recently, and I know when that happened, because a motorcycle that I've owned for years without touching the carburetors suddenly started running poorly, until I rejetted the carburetors a little richer (so that it now uses more fuel ...)

      I have 2 vehicles with late model fuel injected gasoline engines, neither are flex-fuel, both run "open loop" at wide open throttle. Adding ethanol makes the engine run lean. Holes in pistons, and burned exhaust valves, are not environmentally friendly.

      As for "make everything flex-fuel" ... good luck with your lawnmower or garden tractor. Not too many of those have closed-loop fuel injection with enough sophistication to be able to deal with it. High engine load + operating too lean (from ethanol) -> significant risk of burned exhaust valves and pistons!
      • 8 Months Ago
      @ BrianP,

      You are partially right about problems that could happen.

      In my approximations E15 would demand larger flow of 3% than E10, ore some 9.5% more than E0, while E10 demands 6.3% more than E0.

      You may really need a bit of tuning in open-loop carburetor based engines.
      Are those machines maintenance free ?
      Don't they require cleaning and adjusting when run on gas ?
      (Not very different than a child Cox engine...)

      (In an open loop injected setup, it could be done with adjustable fuel pressure regulators, no real high tech here).

      All this claims are really out of any proportion.

      22Mega-barrels/day and ticking... more than 60% imported ... 1/2 of this from ...
      How many Boings do you have to export to pay this bill ?

      If mighty America does not know how to do it, just buy here in Brazil ... (LOL) ... where even [Honda] motorcycles and small engines are turning to flex-fuel.

      BTW, EMS (Engine Management System) is done by Delphi... that old GM division that went bankrupt ... with the heritage of both Rochester(Quadrijet) and Huges Airspace...

      Untreated materials in the fuel line are a far worse problem, but every engine made since you started using gasohol or mixing any bit of alcohol has to be compatible.

      How many 15 year old small engines were not amortized and can't be substituted or upgraded ?
      (Ask for a "Car for Clunkers"-like for those old machines! ;-) )
      (Go see megasquirt and microsquirt @ http://www.megamanual.com/index.html)

      Be quite sure the stated problems has nothing to do with real motivation here.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Congress is in the process of REDUCING by 20% the amount of the Ethanol SUBSIDY from the current 45 cents per gallon. This will hopefully kill off this ethanol scam completely. It uses more energy to raise the stuff than it creates, and it reduces your mileage due to it containing less BTU per unit.

      It was never anything but a vast give away to both Archer Daniels Midland ADM to subsidize its Corn Fructose market and to pay off farmers for years of mismanagement of the Farm subsidy program, that should have been shut down 40 years ago and allowed to go broke anyway.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Your can sure pack a lot of bull into a small block of text.

        Ethanol does NOT take more energy to make than it yields. Not only has that been proven false over and over in the peer-reviewed literature (most definitively in "Science" in 2006 in a comprehensive survey of all studies on the topic), but a casual look at the situation would reveal otherwise as well. If it ethanol really had a negative energy balance it would cost more to make than it can be sold for. Obviously, quite the contrary is the case. Yes it is subsidized, but the subsidy basically makes up for the tariff walling out cheap foreign ethanol - if we dropped both the subsidy and the tariff, the price would be about the same - thus disproving the cretinous claim of a negative ROEI.

        As for mileage, yes, ethanol will take you about two-thirds as far as the same quantity of gasoline. So what? Ethanol burns cleanly, with no smoke, soot, or particulate matter- the cause of smog that fouls the skies of major cities like Houston and L.A. and kills 40,000 Americans a year. Ethanol dissolves on its own in water (no need for chemical dispersants) and is readily biodegradable via naturally present bacteria - a Valdez or Gulf style spill would disappear in days if not hours, with no intervention. Ethanol can't have its market cornered by a cartel that reduces production below demand on purpose to artificially raise the price in a brutally regressive "tax" on the rest of the world. Ethanol won't fund death cults that are trying to kill you and everyone you love. And you'd really whine and moan, really begrudge, filling up three times a month instead of twice to achieve that?

        As for ADM, you're just aggressively ignorant. It's not even the biggest producer of ethanol (the biggest is a farmer owned cooperative called POET). It's the 85th-largest political donor in the U.S. and over 16-years gave its top recipient, Illinois Democratic senator Dick Durbin $57,350, while GOP Illinois congressman Dennis Hastert raked in some $38,500 — with average ADM yearly contributions to the two of them coming to $3,584 and $2,406, respectively! Oooooo.

        Meanwhile Saudi princes are buying up chunks of News Corp (parent of Fox News) and Time Warner (parent of CNN), endowing prestige university chairs in Mideastern studies, putting ex politicians and diplomats on their payroll to the tune of hundreds of millions, retaining the top law, lobby, and PR firms in DC (Patton Boggs, Qorvis, etc etc).

        I'd rather our money go to peaceful agribusiness and US corn farmers than some death cult tyrants that are corrupting our institutions while funding terrorist-supporting extremism.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Another example of how dumb the ethanol lobby is.

      They're fanning the flames of an anti-ethanol backlash by trying to push through E15 for use in existing gasoline-only cars. It doesn't matter whether the anti-E15 FUD campaign is based on merit or not - fear sells, and people inherently dislike being force-fed something.

      What the ethanol lobby should do instead with their limited political capital is to advocate that all NEW cars be required to be fully flex-fueled, able to run equally easily on ethanol or methanol as on gasoline. A flex fuel car can handle gasoline or alcohol fuel in any mix or none at all - so E15, E85, even E100 is no problem. Or if the driver wants he can fill up on pure gasoline. This way you sidestep the controversy while causing a big breakthrough.
      • 8 Months Ago
      E15 for regular fuel
      E0 none, for premium fuel
      E7.5 for mid-grade

      If you are worried about E15 over E10, and rightfully so, don't use regular.

      • 8 Months Ago
      @ jsmith021961 and other about EROEI (Energy Return Over Energy Input).

      Corn is not really the best feedstock for making ethanol, it's just convenient and proven in the US. Even for corn all this negative talk is pure FUD a real lot of BS, as I'll explain.

      There is no doubt that even first generation bad done corn displaces foreign oil, cause most of it's energy use come from local coal and natural gas. As such it relieves a BIG economical problem of converting local energy into a usable form for general transportation use. (The talk of energy security. It does work even if it can't scale as one would like it to).

      About EROEI (http...en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EROEI), it's an interesting figure of merit, but one must understand what it means and how should be used..

      (E=MC2, C=3x10^8m/s, C2~10^17 ... Huge...
      I want a nuclear Delorean from Back to the Future that burns waste ...!!!! LOL!)

      Back to Ethanol and Corn,

      The Energy Balance of corn Ethanol - An Update - 2002. (Corn EROEI: 1.34)

      http://www.brdisolutions.com/Site Docs/Net_Energy_Balance_of_Corn_Ethanol_Shapouri.pdf

      Brazil uses sugar cane, and has more than 10x EROEI. Some say 8x, industry here wants credits for displacing reserve natural gas and oil based electrical generation when hydro-power is limited by rain season...

      Sugar cane is the best natural harvester of sunlight into biomass know.
      Algae could be better but no one has managed to make it economically, though.

      Sugar cane is a perennial (you don't cut the roots and they grow again many times), with high growth rate, and produces a lot of sugars.
      That's why it's used to produce SUGAR (saccharose=glucose+fructose).
      It's a centuries old industry in Brazil.
      Those sugars are "bio-processed" into alcohol. (You know ... beer, whiskey, vodka, rum, cachaça... )

      Brazil had a great problem with it's oil dependency in the 70's. We broke. We had hyperinflation. Lost lives and decades. Learned on our own skins. We can't print dollars as you do. But even owing the FED it just hides the problem still lurking!

      T. Boone Pickens and Anne Karin has a speech in the US that stresses the economical impact of this stupidity of relying so much on foreign energy. I won't lecture you on internal American affairs.

      Back to corn and ethanol. Corn delivers starch, than sugars than ethanol, and a hole lot of other products including Dried Distillers Grains and Solubles, corn cobs, ... (fructose to make you obese ... )

      There are many methods to produce it and different, and different cost and input materials in each place. Some of the challenges are similar to the ones in the Brazilian sugar cane experience, and can bring some light to the discussion.

      1) Biomass as harvested has a low energy density. It's heavy and it's transport should be minimized. Bio-production should be organized in clusters with enough feedstock for a rightsized industrial facility;

      2) Excess biomass should/could be used to produce the process heat and electricity needed in a modern (gasification+high pressure) CHP (Combined Heat and Power) setup. Excess electricity could be sold to the grid as in Brazil. (If done so even corn would displace more than 50% CO2! Cane displaces more than 80%);

      3) Use o Biological Fixation of Nitrogen (as done in Brazil with sugar cane) as a mean to radically reduce the use of fossil derived nitrogen fertilizers, by far the most energy intensive input, could improve even more this balance;

      4) Use of alternative fueling of agricultural machines (tractors, etc.) usually diesel based could also help a lot. Those are still not widespread in Brazil, but there is a lot of action, with many pathways under test, including even "ottolized" diesel engines burning ethanol by FIAT-PowerTrain, Biodiesel, Amiris-sugarcane-diesel, etc.

      5) Develop more adapted and appropriate feedstock for each need and place. There are varieties that are more resistant to plague, drought, or produce more sugar,...
      In the USA, switchgrass and miscanthus (www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jul2008/2008-07-31-091.html) coupled with cellulose decomposition tech might bring far better numbers.

      Biomass and biofuels in general are just nature's proven way of harvesting sun energy into usable dense forms of energy-containing-materials. Ethanol is one of such materials, but should not be regarded as some kind of magical solution. It's just simple, clean, nontoxic, prov
      • 8 Months Ago
      Instead of promoting Premium for Ethanol free gasoline make regular the minimum required Ethanol grade. Regular is purely for regular cars and people concerned with saving money on Fuel. Ethanol is a cheap octane booster but it does have less energy per gallon so increasing use in higher compression engines is a better use of the fuel. Plus they will probably care less about the loss of range than everyday commuters. Ethanol is essentially wasted in Regular grade Flexfuel cars. The hotrodders have turned to E85 to avoid expensive racing fuel which is also illegal for on-road use. And when you compare E85 per mile to Premium per mile the cost is much more favorably to E85 than Regular cheapo gasoline. Designing Engine for Higher compression is not only more efficient and more powerful, it is more expensive.

      Ethanol is both energy positive and profitable but there is a minimum market size before it becomes profitable. The attempts at E15/G85 are just that attempts at increasing market size, the more Ethanol they sell the closer to the black they become. The negative is that the whole ordeal is a bad deal for those with older vehicles and less money for retrofitting their cars. It would be a better sell to start with mandating Flexfuel on newer cars, and encouraging automakers to sell cars designed for Premium Gasoline or Mid Grade Ethanol for better Fuel Economy and Emissions that work acceptably well with Regular grade. When the Ethanol critical mass happens either from Second Generation Biofuels or just a market acceptance then cars can run E85 for Premium or hopefully E90 or even E95 which are higher octane. And there could be a midgrade that is higher octane Gasoline mixed with a partial blend of Ethanol and the Economy grade could be just the Gasoline cocktail that is Gasoline with Ethanol as an oxygenate.

      Gasoline is cheaper per BTU but Ethanol is higher octane for less money than Gasoline and MotorCorps have known since the 50's that higher compression is more efficient and powerful. It was the 50's and 60's that the Oil companies sold Gasoline spiked with lead as an octane booster to increase engine power. Now that fuel efficiency is a concern pushing for higher octane fuel is plausible.
      • 8 Months Ago
      It should be noted that it is *possible* to make a small engine (carbureted) that is compatible with ethanol, but if the maximum percentage of ethanol is too high, the engine won't be compatible with both the high-ethanol fuel and the low-ethanol fuel, and if the engine is subject to emission regulations, it may not be possible for it to pass the regulations on both the maximum and minimum percentages of ethanol.

      Having newer chainsaws (to pick an example) that are compatible with E15, and older chainsaws that aren't, in the same fleet, is a recipe for trouble.

      After my carb-rejetting exercise, I've now switched fuel brands, from a "may contain", to something that I *know* has ethanol, but which I have now re-jetted for.

      The average joe is not going to be able to re-jet their lawnmower. I'm not even sure if the design of the carburetors in those will allow it. And does this violate the EPA's own anti-tampering laws?
      • 8 Months Ago
      Down goes ethanol. While I get that questions might remain over the feasibility of ethanol this further testing stuff is just another in the chain of government interference to the benefit of the oil industry whether accidentally or intentionally.
      Brazil has made widespread use of ethanol fuels for years, and if we, like them, insisted on more flex fuel vehicles we might not be so tied to gasoline as the exclusive fuel choice. Biodiesel like ethanol is getting tied up by politicians.
      Check out the article about it on my blog
      These two technologies are the only ones we have that do not require new national infrastructure, or completely new cars, or a significant overhaul to work in existing cars, like hybrids, electrics, fuel cell technology, or natural gas alternatives do.
      Biodiesel and ethanol are basically the only two fuels that could compete with gasoline on its own turf (the internal combustion engine) and politicians have now delayed the further advancement of both of these industries.
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