• Oct 19, 2010

When the EPA approved gasoline with 15 percent ethanol content (E15) for Model Year 2007 and newer vehicles last week, it set off a wave of criticism that drivers would have trouble at the pump discerning which fuel was right for their tank. After all, everyone from police to thieves have wrongly put diesel in a gasoline-powered car (or vice versa). To remedy the situation, the EPA has now issued a mock-up of bright orange warning label that could be applied to pumps. For the record, the sticker says:
Caution! This fuel contains 15% ethanol maximum. Use only in:
2007 and newer gasoline cars
2007 and newer light-duty trucks
Flex-fuel vehicles
This fuel might damage other vehicles. Federal law prohibits its use in other vehicles and engines.
Like most EPA decisions of this type, the agency has an open comment period that will run for 60 days once the proposal is published in the Federal Register. You can make your comments via email or mail (details here). If the EPA goes ahead and approves E15 for older vehicles soon, as we've heard it will, then this all seems like a temporary "solution" to a problem no one will have, but for now, what are your reactions?

[Source: EPA via Domestic Fuel]


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  • 22 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Vehicles were not engineered to be "Flex Fuel" capable on a large scale before 2007, and the government is concerned (not enough in my opinion) that certain fuel and engine components will be damaged by prolonged use of gas with more than 10%. Plus, Ethanol is a COLOSSAL energy waste (something like 17 barrels of oil for every 8 of ethanol), requires ridiculous Federal subsidies, we don't have enough corn to manufacture it on a scale large enough to make a difference and "your mileage will vary" (often as much as -20%) with ethanol. It's a waste, a joke that tries to fool us into thinking that it's the key to energy independence. And just another example of the enviro-commies at the EPA overreaching in their non-elected positions to tell us what we'll have to drive. Ethanol = Fail

      Sorry for the rant, I'm just done with this foolishness.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Groves, I note your use of the leftist, surrender-advocate codephrase "politics of fear", and yet you try to outflank me on the right? I'm a conservative Republican, nimrod. Pro-life, pro marriage, pro gun, anti-tax, anti-Obamacare, pro victory overseas, you name it. And I'm voting Republican on Nov. 2.

        Plenty of Republicans agree with me about energy security, and specifically corn ethanol, including large slews of our elected officials, including most of our past and present leading presidential contenders. The Open Fuel Standards Act is being promoted by staunch conservatives like Congressman Roscoe Bartlett and (as I mentioned) Fox News contributor and head of the Center for Security Policy Frank Gaffney.

        I used to think just the way you do about corn ethanol, for decades, until I actually began looking into the FACTS of the issue.

        Instead of shutting off your brain and your ability to learn new things at the trigger-word "Berkeley", pay attention to the word "Science" in my citation. Along with "Nature", "Science" is one of the two most prestigious prestigious peer-reviewed journals in the world. It's the pinnacle, with the most strict and rigorous standards for publication. And the study is particularly decisive because it's not a one-off, but rather a comprehensive survey of the entire existing body of scientific research on the subject.

        Liberals-turned-conservatives used to call themselves "mugged by reality" - this is the equivalent of reality slapping you in the face HARD, trying to wipe that adolescent smirk off your face and wake you up.

        I already acknowledged that domestic corn ethanol can't do the job alone, so your belaboring that point is wasting time. My point is that it gets a bad rap, deserves support, and can play a key role in getting us off petroleum, along with other alcohol fuels.

        Your kid-glove fastidiousness about government intervention is all very mincing and sweet, but WE'RE AT WAR. Do I need to use a megaphone next to your ear? WE'RE AT WAR. We didn't hesitate to ORDER Ford to make tanks instead of cars in World War 2, to ban pleasure driving and ration fuel.

        Compared to all that, you're whining and sniveling about some measly subsidies, or other extremely minor interventions designed to get us off petroleum? It's disgraceful that we're not pursuing energy security with hair-on-fire, wartime-level urgency, and your complacency is part of the problem.

        And deliberately using gasoline, when you now KNOW that it funds the enemy, is an act of deliberate treason.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Carney,
        That's cute, especially at the end when you accused me of helping the terrorists. The politics of fear at their very best. You've memorized your eco talking points well (nice throwing Berkley in there too..they'd never miss an opportunity to hose industry for pie in the sky eco-nonsense). If you want to talk about biofuels, that's an entirely different matter all together, but I'm just talking about what this article is about...corn ethanol. It's not a solution...it's nothing close to it. If we used all the available farmland to try and produce the stuff, it would replace somewhere in the area of 15% of our gasoline. Should we become more energy independent? Absolutely. Is corn ethanol the way to do it? Nope.
        At the end of the day, it's not the government's job to force the direction of automotive (or any other) technology, especially not departments like the EPA who don't answer to the voters. I am sure you disagree, and that's fine...but come Nov. 3, you'll be reminded how much the rest of the country agrees with me.

        I'll top off the tank with E0 next time...just for you. :-)
        • 4 Years Ago
        You've got some foolishness all right.

        It's unfortunate that cars continue to be made with inferior materials that can't handle ethanol, and are thus stupidly and pointlessly locked in to gasoline, i.e., planet-fouling, economy-crashing, terrorist-funding Enemy Fuel. It only costs $130 per car for automakers to make new cars flex fuel at the factory, so we should just require fuel flexibility to be a standard feature like seat belts, and end the artificial fragile monopoly our enemies have over our transportation fuel supply. You do realize OPEC has 78% of world oil reserves, while we have only 3%, right?

        Ethanol is NOT an energy waste. There are only two peer-reviewed writers who claimed this, one of them a former oil executive, the other an anti-agriculture radical who is not an actual credentialed expert in energy or agriculture issues, and both of them completely isolated and repeatedly and swiftly refuted in the refereed literature, owing to making basic errors like using decades-outdated statistics and wrongly assuming that ethanol corn is irrigated.

        The most comprehensive survey of all peer-reviewed studies on the topic was done at Berkeley and published in "Science" in 2006. It *proved* that for every barrel of petroleum expended, the yield is at least 10 and even 20 barrels of ethanol.

        But it's not just a matter of dueling professors. You just have to use common sense. If it REALLY took twice as much energy to make ethanol as it yields, then ethanol should need a subsidy at least twice its retail cost for anyone to be willing to sell it. And yet the subsidy it gets is only about 50 cents a gallon, with the retail cost being about $2.15. Furthermore the subsidy is not there to make up for some supposed energy imbalance in ethanol itself, but to wall off even cheaper Brazilian ethanol to protect domestic producers. We can argue about whether ethanol protectionism a good policy or not, but that's got nothing to do with the proven-false myth of taking more energy to make ethanol than it yields.

        As for the subsidies being "ridiculous", they total less than $10 billion all told. Let's contrast that with OPEC's deliberate under-production to artificially raise the price of petroleum by hundreds of billions of dollars a year more than it would have been in a free-floating fuel market. $10 billion for peaceful agribusiness and corn farmers, vs. hundreds of billions for totalitarian, apocalyptic fanatics who are using OUR money to fund mass murdering zealots at war with us. And you're complaining about the former, instead of the latter? Get your priorities straight.

        Mileage varies with any fuel, depending on temperature, vehicle load, road slope, driving speed and style, and more. Were you referring to ethanol's lower mileage relative to gasoline? Yeah, it gives you about two-thirds the mileage. So what? We're at war. Even if you don't care about the fact that it burns without soot or smoke (which cause the smog problem that kills 40,000 Americans a year according to George W. Bush's EPA) you should care that we spent more directly on OPEC oil in 2008 than we spent on our combined war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. And if all you care about is money, think about how the price of oil went from $10 a barrel in 1999 to $140 in 2008, crushing the economy, wiping out trillions in wealth and millions of jobs. Filling up twice a month on gasoline instead of three times a month on ethanol is not worth that.

        There's massive room for expansion in our ag sector for biofuel. Efficiency and per-acre crop yields rise so relentlessly (up more than 17% since 2003 alone) that each year fewer farmers and less land is needed to meet even rising demand. That's why less than half our cropland is even cultivated, and young people are streaming out of rural areas to find work. But you're right that even at capacity we can't replace all our gasoline consumption volume with domestic ethanol. That's a GOOD thing. That means we can give our farmers all the business they can possibly handle, and still have a lot of demand left over for poor farmers in the tropics to get a piece of the action. If even half the $600 billion we spent on foreign oil in 2008 was spent on foreign ethanol instead, it would dwarf the total world foreign aid budget (US, EU, UN, Catholic Church, Oxfam, etc.) of $60 billion several times over, and be far more effective because it would be in the form of trade, not aid.

        Finally, there's another alcohol fuel - methanol - that can be made from natural gas, coal (which he have hundreds of years of), or any biomass at all, including crop residues (such as the cobs, stems, and leaves of corn plants, multiplying the per-acre alcohol fuel yield of ethanol corn farms), fast-regrowing weeds that need to be cleared anyway (such as kudzu and water hyacinths), trash, and even sewage. A fully fle
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have become so used to filling up my model year 2000 non flexfuel car with 50% ethanol that I forgot doing so is a violation of Federal Law. Uncle Sam had better send out the fuel police to keep his subjects buying the proper fuel.
      • 4 Years Ago
      As long as "E" Comes from corn, this is stupid.

      Why aren't farmers growing something, like Switchgrass that is far more productive.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The ethanol is made from starch, extracted from feed corn. The feed corn is grown anyway for animal feed and the animals can't process the starch.

        No corn is grown specifically for the production of ethanol. They're making better use of existing crop. That's much more efficient than growing a separate product, solely for the purpose of ethanol.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Animals can indeed "process starch", but since it is relatively easy to separate out the starch from the much more nutritious germ and bran components, it might be practical to make ethanol from the starch and feed the animals the germ and bran - and the brewers yeast produced in the ethanol brewing process.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why don't we have e85 capability mandated in all cars starting yesterday?

      I for one would be anxious about buying a car that *didn't* have that capability. We don't know what's going to happen to our global oil supplies in the next 5 years.

      This optional 5% for gas stations is going to suck. My prediction is that they will go mandatory e15.

      BTW.. anyone know what's different about 2007 cars? it sounds like an arbitrary number..
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's not a question of them wanting to carry it or not! Same with e10.. mandatory in all states as far as i know.

        Also.. you won't need separate tanks. The extra %5 ethanol can be blended in as you pump. I have a feeling that e85 already works this way. That's how you get 89 octane already.

        But i don't think the optional 5% thing will happen. Too much equipment will need to be changed.. accounting software updated.. meters changed out.. etc etc!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I suspect that very few gas stations are going to bother with E15, especially with that ominous "Federal law prohibits" on the label. Those already carrying regular/premium/E85 wouldn't want to bother with the extra pumps and extra tanks or mixers that would be required, and the market would be very small anyway.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Geez, that's a pretty intense warning. I doubt anyone who is even remotely unsure would put that in their car regardless of model year.
      • 4 Years Ago
      E-10 screwed up boats,what do you think E-15 is going to do? One more thing being forced on us.
        • 4 Years Ago
        One more thing. you are posting misinformation,all anyone has to do is check Boat U.S.com or just google this topic,and they will see you don't know what your talking about.When E-10 was released in N.J. maybe 5 out of 10 boats had trouble.I guess they drive there boats to the gas station on interstate 287 to.
        • 4 Years Ago
        One more thing you are posting misinformation,all anyone has to do is check Boat U.S.com or just google this topic,and they will see you don't know what your talking about.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I did not post misinformation. I have a 40foot yacht,what do you think I drive it there? In N.J. and N.Y. this is the fuel they sell at all marina's. You should lean all the fasts before you run your mouth. This is why I don't want E-15 fuel because we have no choice.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You are not supposed to fuel boats with automotive fuel!

        And Corn Ethanol has been proven to be energy positive, many times. The exact figure is debatable only due to the math being performed but the result is still positive either way. Add that it comes from sources other than petroleum now and you have a viable alternative. Posting misinformation is a bad habit you need to break. The Ethanol energy balance is well proven especially if you discount anomalous data such as Dr. Pimental's work from the 70's-00's

        The Pre-2007 cars are still being tested with E15. I heard that part aswell.

        The law states that you should not run a car not designed for the fuel. If you have it professionally converted(which is a grey area because there is no certification for vehicle fuel conversion ability) it might be considered legally compliant. But if you run a completely stock fuel system on higher grades of Ethanol the fuel components will fail earlier than if you ran it on purely RF Gasoline and could potentially pose a problem. It might fail after 10 years or 20 years instead of 25, noone really knows. Fuel system conversion are beyond the scope of 90% of the public's abilities at least. Do it right and protect yourself, if it starts a fire you would be held personally responsible and sued. Think about it, ethanol burns differently and in a fire it might not be put out as easily by standard fire department equipment and could be considered suspicious.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sorry about spelling was rushing. I would like to ask,do you have stock in corn?
      • 4 Years Ago
      How much higher will my fuel consumption be (gallons per 100 miles) with E15 than with E10? And how much less will I be paying for it?
      • 4 Years Ago
      So my 2006 Focus won't drink E-15 but a 2007 Focus will? I doubt anything changed between model years unless you have a bona fide e-85 flex fuel vehicle.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You are most certainly correct. I'm all for alternative fuels btw, I just thought the year-model differentiation seemed a little artificial.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't remember the exact phrase, but when the EPA made their initial press release, they said that they had not yet certified E15 for use in pre-2007 vehicle. They didn't say it would damage pre-2007 vehicles. I suspect the strong wording in the sticker is for liability purposes..
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