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Ethanol is supposed to be a clean bio-fuel that helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It's primarily produced from domestically grown corn. So why is it so controversial? When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced earlier this month that refiners could begin to sell gasoline with a 15-percent ethanol content, so called "E15," it raised outcry from a whole host of special-interest groups. Environmentalists objected. Oil companies complained. Gas station owners howled. Classic car owners moaned. Motorist groups whined. Even boat owners grumbled.

Just about the only people who like the new rule are corn farmers and Midwest Democrats running for Congress. More on that later...

Five Percent More

First, let's figure out what this fuel additive means for motorists. Currently, cars are designed to use gasoline with an ethanol content of 10 percent. After testing gasoline with a 15-percent ethanol blend, the EPA has concluded that it won't hurt vehicles built in 2007 or later. The agency took this action because Congress wants to expand the nation's use of ethanol and other bio-fuels.

Later this year, the EPA will decide whether E15 is safe for vehicles built from 2001 through 2006. But the agency's two-step approval process is causing lots of heartburn. The EPA will require gas stations to slap labels on gas pumps that dispense E15 fuel. But retailers and environmentalists fear motorists might get confused if they have a choice of two different ethanol blends.

If the owner of an older car uses the wrong fuel, the vehicle's catalytic converter might be damaged. That's because ethanol blends burn hotter than pure gasoline. Vehicles built in 2007 or later have an oxygen sensor that adjusts the combustion and protects the catalyst. Not so with older cars. A car with a damaged catalytic converter can be a serious polluter, says Sasha Lyutse, a New York-based policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"People are worried that you could have serious problems," she says. "I am quite skeptical of the EPA's ability to implement this system at the pump."

Gas station owners aren't happy either. The angry owner of a damaged car might well sue the retailer, warns Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, whose members sell 80 percent of the nation's gasoline.

"Do retailers have the stomach for the potential risk?" Lenard asks. "A lot of questions have to be answered before a retailer is going to sell E15. Nothing is going to happen overnight."

A Different Sort Of Green

There are other problems. Vehicles built in 2007 or later account for just 18 percent of the nation's total vehicle population. If a gas station wants to serve everybody – not just owners of new cars – it would have to install new pumps and new underground fuel tanks, Lenard says. Pumps cost about $18,000 to $20,000 apiece, while underground storage tanks can cost anywhere from $20,000 in a rural area to a whopping $250,000 in cities like San Francisco.

Then there's the tricky issue of fuel economy. Because ethanol is less energy dense than gasoline, pure gasoline delivers about 3 percent better fuel economy than an E15 blend, Lenard says.

Since the EPA isn't requiring retailers to use the new blend, one might expect gas stations to take a pass on E15. But ethanol is a bit cheaper than pure gasoline, so retailers can cut the price of a gallon of fuel by a few pennies. If a competitor down the road uses E15 to cut prices, that would be a powerful incentive for retailers to stock it, says Lenard.

"People might step over a penny on the pavement on the way to the pump, but they'll drive miles out of their way to save a few cents per gallon," he notes.

Other organizations have commented on the issue. The American Automobile Association, the nation's largest motorist organization, issued a statement warning against possible damage to older cars. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents automakers, did so too. In its statement, the alliance noted that automakers must "harden" the fuel systems of vehicles to run on fuel blends with a high ethanol content. But ethanol can corrode the engine seals and fuel lines of vehicles that haven't been upgraded. And it's not just older cars that are affected.

The EPA warns against the use of E15 fuel in motorcycles, school buses, delivery trucks, snowmobiles, lawn mowers, chain saws and boats. Which is why the National Marine Manufacturers Association was feeling cranky enough to complain about possible damage to boat engines.

Politics Over The Environment?

If environmentalists, automakers, oil companies and gas station owners all are worried about E15 fuel, why is the EPA moving ahead? In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which mandates the nationwide consumption of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. Since the nation's motorists used only nine billion gallons in 2008, we've got a long way to go.

But why was the agency in such a rush to okay E15's use in new vehicles before tests on older vehicles are complete? The New York Times hinted at the answer Thursday when it noted that nine Democratic congressmen in ethanol-producing states face tough re-election bids in November. This is a make-or-break issue for voters in corn states like Iowa, whose livelihoods are tied to the industry.

Environmentalists favor the production of ethanol from substances like switch grass, which causes less environmental damage than corn. But don't hold your breath, said the NRDC's Lyutse.

"Corn ethanol has been getting [government] subsidies for more than 30 years," she said. "This is one more decision that supports corn ethanol at the expense of cleaner biofuels."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 356 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago

      What They Don't Want You To Know!!!!!

      Corn used for ethanol increases our food prices. Try to save a few pennies at the pump, while your food prices escalate.

      Henry Ford planned to run his cars on ethanol made from hemp, and in fact built much of the body parts from a plastic made from hemp. Hemp produces 10 times more ethanol per acre than is made from corn. Henry Fords original cars were made to run either on 100% ethanol or gasoline, the first true bio-car. But our Government denies that hemp or Marijuana has any value in our Society. Even with a dozen or more States with Hemp laws in place, the DEA makes using hemp for fuel impossible. But we have big oil and this government to blame for that don't we? While we spend millions of dollars each year eradicating hemp and building more and more prisons for our children, we deny the fact that our cars could be run on 100% ethanol. Very simple conversions on our cars are available. Yet this government prefers our future to be given to big oil and foreign imports while we have ever spiraling food prices. Well God Damn them. Eat corn grow hemp.

      Time to take this "out of control" Government back? Good luck on that count. Maybe if we returned to the days of "Tar and Feathering" of some of our Government leaders, something would change. But that would be illegal wouldn't it? Let the bastards steal our childrens futures while they fill their pockets along with their rich friends. We should be filling our prisons with these politicians, not our children.

      Ron Paul is an exception on the hemp issue. He has been fighting this for years only for his efforts to be buried in committee after committee. Our future has been sold out by our government rulers. Our jobs go to China and our lives and prosperity are stolen by these politicians and their rich buddies. Bandar Bush beware?? LOL

      Cheers
      Terry Winger
      www.freeanointing.org
      bj the dj
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ben- Your just an amazing guy orgirl.
      thbassist
      • 4 Years Ago
      They're concerned that we might be confused with two blends? Hello... does anyone remember when we had leaded and unleaded? Have we really become so stupid?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @thbassist
        To: Carl B Sulivan. You need to make constructive comments. You are totally out of line.


        Oct 20th 2010 by Carl B Sullivan, Jr., Esq.Actually, Ken, I'm so stupid I can't understand why we don't just stick a pump in the cow's ass. A cow eats corn; she produces methane gas from where, Ken, her nose, her tits? BTW, Ken, I heard a rumor that T. Boone Pickens was crowing about something called "natural gas." He must be related to Pat and Daniel Boone. He seems to be out picking shit with the rest of the chickens who think there’s a future in electric trains. Gotta tell you, Ken, you are one smart dude.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @thbassist
        Yes Ken, we have dummied down our society so Democrats can make sense!
        • 4 Years Ago
        @thbassist
        Actually, Ken, I'm so stupid I can't understand why we don't just stick a pump in the cow's ass. A cow eats corn; she produces methane gas from where, Ken, her nose, her tits? BTW, Ken, I heard a rumor that T. Boone Pickens was crowing about something called "natural gas." He must be related to Pat and Daniel Boone. He seems to be out picking shit with the rest of the chickens who think there’s a future in electric trains. Gotta tell you, Ken, you are one smart dude.
        Gary
        • 4 Years Ago
        @thbassist
        Yep, we have.
        mdog002
        • 4 Years Ago
        @thbassist
        Up, it's America and now the government is taking over...the nanny nation cradle to grave...we are that stupid
        stinco
        • 4 Years Ago
        @thbassist
        Ken,
        It is proven that you need to burn 20-25% more E85 gas to go the same distance that regular unleaded gas takes you. Do the math and wise up please.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @thbassist
        yes.. the majority of our population are robots. they are that stupid, do not have a mind of their own and only believe what they hear on the news or in the paper... damn shame but true
        • 4 Years Ago
        @thbassist
        How about ethel or regular?
        Showing my age!
        a70duster
        • 4 Years Ago
        @thbassist
        I mix 3 gallons of E85 with 10 gallons of premium pump gas (91 octane). The concoction yields about 95 octane at a fuel consumption increase of 7%. The good part is that I can run 25 psi of boost with no engine detonation. :-D
        • 4 Years Ago
        @thbassist
        I burned E-20 when we had a blending pump in Wichita, which allowed customers to buy E-10, E-20 or E-30. I was driving a 1995 Ford full size conversion van. I had no engine problems, no damage to seals, and no real drop in gas mileage....but I did save money.
        Even if my mileage had dropped 2-3 MPG, the savings would still be worth it. By the way, the pumps at this station had four choices, because customers could also by E-85 at the same pump. Guess what, people were not confused. The station initially priced the gas fairly, but when they priced the E-20 and E-30 higher than other stations were selling "pure gasolene," they lost sales and went out of business.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @thbassist
        just see what happens if you keep that blend in your non use every day motors,ex. mowers, atv's, motorcycles and seasonal vehicles. it gums up clogs carburetors and injectors. 2 months or more it sours and the cost of fixing your fuel systems more than outweighs any savings. so drain those tanks before you put it in the garage.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @thbassist
        Although we have used ethanol in race cars for years in the class I run, using ethanol in everyday drivers has its pro's and con's. Engines can be built to run satisfactorily on ethanol. And with today's on board computers in vehicles you have no risk of problems with the emission controls. Yes it burns cleaner than gasoline First from my point of view you are actually paying more per gallon because of the decrease mileage using ethanol blends. Do you see a price reduction? NOPE! So when do consumers get a break? The only benefit is to the corn growing farmers. They may need this to survive but what about the average American family of 4 or the elderly who are on limited budgets. And here is what burns me - the hybrid cars. Do you realize the pollution caused by production of such cars as the Prius. The content from the batteries alone are a major threat to the environment. They may be less reliant on petroleum products but they contribute as much to hazardous waste as a gasoline internal combustion engine and more. What the industry does not bring into light about hybrid cars is the environmental hazard in building these cars and the energy needed to charge batteries especially if they are not charged completely during everyday driving and need to be charged overnight. Where does that energy come from and what type of electrical power plants are used to generate the electricity? Are these plants petroleum based. What about nuclear power plants and the waste from them? We are in a vicious circle.

        And who cares who passed what bill. We as people of America need to gain
        control of our country and not let the politicians pass laws that we do not have a say in or a chance to cast a vote upon. And finally we need to rid Congress of lobbyists. They are paid large sums of money to influence our representatives.
      papabudlight
      • 4 Years Ago
      Diesel, best way to go.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Marcellus is the key to fuel independance
      redbob2u
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hey, if E85 and this new E15 are SUPPOSED TO CUT OUR DEPENDENCE FOR OIL (lol) then why is it that oil and gas prices have skyrocketed. here is your answer ....our money hungy politicians are out campaining so they can stay in office and are just show us Americans that hey can care less. Oh by the way those people who shove this crap down our throats not only get free healthcare, great pensions, and the like, THEY DON'T PAY FOR THEIR GAS TO DRIVE AND OIL FOR THEIR HOME EITHER. WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!!! THE WORST IS STILL COMING!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Mark Schomann; Forgive me but I have missed your point.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Leave gas alone and push for E85 everywhere! The government offers incentives for gasoline producers to cut their gas with ethanol, but that money should be going towards developing the E85 infrastructure. I use E85 and it is dificult to find. True, your milage suffers by about 15% but it is usually 15% to 20% cheaper then gas. I've been to Brazil a few times and every car is E85 compatible. Let loose our dependancy of foreign fuel!
      Turillo
      • 4 Years Ago
      Morons like you are blessed in their stupidity since they can not even conceve the simple fact that you had been paying way too much to start with. Automobile insurance cost are governed by the risk the insurer takes based on the stupidity level /or natural reoccuring events for the average driver to incur an accident in any given area. In addition to average cost of repairs of your Joe the mechanic down the block.
      Get a life and do not feel happy when you should have kicked yourself in the but for having been raped all these years. Do not tell me...you must have been inspired by the Geico!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Where do people get thier facts? Comments on this alone have us using anywhere from 1.3 to 1.87 gals of fuel to get one gallon of ethanol in our tanks. Can you say "spin"? The old timers used to say "figures dont lie but liars can figure". Imagine for a moment where you all might be price wise if ethanol was not displacing billions of gallon of gasoline? As for higher food costs? What a joke. Ethanol production has a usable by product NO ONE here has mentioned..... called DDG'S.... guess what... its FEED for livestock! So all this corn used for ethonal goes on to feed all the livestock that unprocessed corn has done for years! Can you say "Two birds with one stone"? Go ahead with all your uninformed nonsense and twisted facts, but farmers and thier check off dollars taken from the sale of every bushel of corn for the last couple decades paid for and developed one of the most useful products to wean us from total dependence on foriegn oil yet! A whole lot of other earth friendly, biodegradable products too! (Can you say corn starch packing peanuts? None corrosive deicers? etc. etc.) HELPS the enviroment too! What a win - win situation! If you want to continue to ship your hard earned dollars and jobs over seas, go ahead, I for one would rather keep that money and jobs right HERE in the USA! AND CORN AND ALL THE PRODUCTS FROM IT, DOES THAT! INCLUDING ETHONAL!
      • 4 Years Ago
      The answer is so simple. BECAUSE WE HAVE IDIOTS IN THE EPA!!!!!! This agency should be Dumped. Save the taxpayer money get rid of the EPA. Just like the South Coast Air Quality in California get rid of them!!!!!!
      • 4 Years Ago
      f*ck the ethanol, f*cu the EPA, f*ck the enviromentalist, f*ck the politicians after this crap. Lets use pure gasoline. Runs better, runs more miles, runs smoother. The hell for all those suckers.
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