The battle lines on the ethanol in the national gasoline supply debate are getting more and more defined, or at least more legal. The fight between the ethanol industry and Big Oil (represented by the American Petroleum Institute, an association of 500 oil and natural gas companies) has bee winding through the courts, but now API is telling the Supreme Court just how bad E15 is bad for engines.

Here's the recap. The Environmental Protection Agency gave the okay to up the level from E10 (10 percent ethanol mixed with 90 percent gasoline) to E15 for 2007 and newer vehicles back in 2010. Quickly, nine food and farm groups, along with the API, sued the EPA over the decision. The first drops were sold to the public at Midwestern gas stations last summer and, last August, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided that the broad coalition could not challenge E15. So, the API appealed the case to the Supreme Court in February.

"E15 could leave millions of consumers with broken-down cars and high repair bills" - American Petroleum Institute.

Here's the latest. This week, the API filed a legal brief filed with the Supreme Court, describing how E15 can damage cars and trucks. Bob Greco, API's director of downstream and industry operations, told the Des Moines Register that, "E15 could leave millions of consumers with broken-down cars and high repair bills. It could also put motorists in harm's way when vehicles break down in the middle of a busy highway." Let's call it corn anxiety.

Ethanol, made most often from corn, can be contentious across the US, with both Maine and Florida taking legislative stands against the biofuel recently. The AFI fight over E15 is the biggest, though, and will likely have wide-ranging consequences for the biofuel's future in the US.


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  • 70 Comments
      raktmn
      • 1 Year Ago
      Somebody better tell Ford and GM, because they have both certified the use of E15 in their cars: http://www.iowafarmertoday.com/news/regional/gm-ford-recommend-e-for-new-vehicles/article_ae0338b4-0f05-11e2-92c7-0019bb2963f4.html Or I guess the oil industry now all the sudden gets to mandate through the courts what Ford and GM can do with their cars? The reality is that not a single person will ever be forced to use E15. The law is that every gas station that sells E15 is mandated to also have a dedicated pump for selling gas with E10 or less ethanol. That's the law. So using E15 is always 100% the choice of consumers. If you personally believe that it will kill your car, then don't buy it. Simple as that. But don't tell me I can't buy it because of your superstitions. This is nothing more than an anti-consumer choice power-grab by the oil industry. How they even have standing to file a lawsuit is beyond me. It is literally none of their damn business what I choose to put in my tank. That is between me, my mechanic (also me), and my car manufacturer.
        EZEE
        • 1 Year Ago
        @raktmn
        My Beloved 2000 Ford Ranger is fine upto E85. My boat on the other hand, is not thrilled with ethanol.
          raktmn
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          It is illegal to fill you boat with E15. Don't break the law.
          EZEE
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          Imagine going to jail and facing the other criminals...they would all point and make fun if me. I actually had a water separator installed in it to be safe.
          EZEE
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EZEE
          I have no idea why you got downvoted...
      bluepongo1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Whenever I have corn anxiety I put Korn in my ears ( usually "Freak on a leash" your results may vary.) and I feel much better. ;-P
      Marco Polo
      • 1 Year Ago
      The most unfortunate thing about this lawsuit is that because it's an oil company initiative it will become the irrational target of all those who just hate oil, and oil-companies, and the real issues of US corn-based ethanol with be drowned out in cacophony of irreverent rants. If all the problems associated with the Ethanol Industry were simply it's harmful effect on engines, then the expense for manufacturers to design engines to overcome this minor technical difficulty would be justified. But why continue to invest in band-aids for a dead technology. The real problems of the US Ethanol industry, are: 1) Corn based feedstock 2) Uneconomic without government subsidy or mandated use 3) Environmentally harmful. 4) Creates food shortages and price rises. 5 ) Creates unnecessary trade deficits Ethanol creates other problems as well, but these are relatively minor, or speculative. Any incompatibility of engine technology with ethanol, would worth resolving if ethanol was worthwhile, but with the rare instances of nations with a huge and reliable supply of sugar cane (or beat), the ethanol industry is a huge mistake. With some technologies, (EV's for instance) technology rapidly improves to make what seemed uneconomic, increasingly feasible, then feasible, finally competitive and even superior. But sadly, not all technologies experience those technical breakthroughs stages, and remain logistically uneconomic. (and even environmentally harmful ! ). Ethanol is one of those industries that can never be made economically feasible, certainly not with corn based feedstock ! Despite hundreds of billions of taxpayer, private investors, and consumer dollars poured into this industry over the last 40 years, the industry even less economic than 40 years ago. Just hating oil companies, is not enough justification to keep this industry alive. It's better to let it die, rehabilitate the farmers who suffer from the loss, and move on to more promising, less harmful technologies. .
        q`Tzal
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Marco Polo
        This. The simple fact of the matter is that politicians wanting to look "Green(tm)" latched on to the farmed biofuel concept and refuse to let it go even after the ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTISTS have said that biofuels derived from non-waste products is a net energy loss and net profit loss from any angle. What has become more obvious to big agriculture recently is the fact that the ethanol obsession is hurting the poor the most in food prices.
        Betty m
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Marco Polo
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        EVSUPERHERO
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Marco, why are the oil corps sueing when they don't need any extra sales as you consistantly maintain. Seem odd to me?
          Marco Polo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EVSUPERHERO
          @ raktmn WTF ? What a dishonest comment ! The only reason ethanol survives is that it's use is mandated by legislation. I never mentioned E15, or any other percentage. The campaign to increase the percentage of ethanol, has nothing to do with the environment, or oil independence ! It just a dishonest solution to the obvious problem of trying to adapt an agricultural product for an unsuitable purpose. In bad harvest years, expensive imported ethanol makes up the short falls, in good harvest years, food prices remain high, instead of falling, because of the false price created by ethanol. If ethanol becomes in over supply, the ethanol lobby desperately tries to expand the percentage, without lowering the price. There should never have been a mandate ! But, have decided that a mandate was necessary, it should have been capped at 10% of gasoline demand. The confusion, corruption and exploitation of this government created industry, will cost U.S. drivers a $13 billion increase in the cost of gasoline in 2013, due to the rising price of federally-mandated ethanol credits. Increasing the use of a fuel in the US that's even more environmentally harmful than gasoline, while less economic, is just plain absurd !
          Marco Polo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EVSUPERHERO
          @ EVSUPERHERO An interesting observation Ray. IMO, with all the discovery of new oil/gas fields and reduced fear of depletion, I would expect oil companies to become more aggressive when competing with technologies that hurt the profits of oil distribution, not actual sales. EV's are not really competition for oil companies, since gasoline is oil's least profitable product. The tiny share of gasoline/diesel sales lost to EV's is too insignificant a percentage of oil profits to bother about. Mandated Ethanol is a different story. Ethanol creates a costly overhead factor for oil companies, eroding profits in an sector where profit margins are already very tight. Oil companies make money from 'upstream' products, not the low profit 'downstream' products involved in distributing gasoline and diesel. The oil companies also get the blame for age to engines etc, from consumers. But oil company opposition to ethanol is largely a US phenomenon, and coincides with the abandonment of ethanol research in the US by most oil companies. Remember, as the article says, the driving force behind this lawsuit is the American Petroleum Institute, an association of 500 oil and natural gas companies. Many natural gas companies see CNG or LPG as a replacement fuel for gasoline, and believe that mandated ethanol enjoys an unfair advantage. (NG companies, don't have the same animosity toward EV's, since EV's can run on electricity generated by Natural Gas.) At the end of the day, when you strip away all the false idealism, and cries of "public interest'' , this is a straight out battle between two huge industries. There are no 'hero's", both industries have their lawyers and lobbyists, and a lot of money. But the oil and gas companies, are better entrenched and integrated into the economy than ethanol, which has lost it's original environment purpose. No matter how many times the API loses, it wont go away, but if Ethanol loses it's government mandate, just once, the US corn-based ethanol industry would collapse. The collapse of the ethanol Industry would be beneficial to the EV acceptance.
          raktmn
          • 1 Year Ago
          @EVSUPERHERO
          "Mandated Ethanol is a different story." There is no E15 mandate.
      goodoldgorr
      • 1 Year Ago
      The stuff is weaker and more corrosive then gasoline.
      Ele Truk
      • 1 Year Ago
      Shouldn't we be hearing about damage from E15 from the car manufactures? Wouldn't they know better than the oil industry? Anytime I hear dire warnings from Big Oil, I just chalk it up to FUD, they want to protect their revenue stream of course, so for them Ethanol is BAD, EVs are BAD, Hydrogen Fuel cells are BAD. Gasoline and Diesel are the only real solutions, from now to the end of eternity.
        lord.phaggle
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Ele Truk
        We do hear about it. In the manuals of vehicles other than Ford, GM, Porsche and several others, it specifically says not to use greater than E10. The automakers aren't going to do anything else about it. Why would they? You destroy your car with the stuff and they get to make money selling you new parts for it or just a whole new car. That is the shame but there are worse things than having to trade your 20 year old car on something E15 compatible. The real crime here is against owners of classic cars, boats, and small engines who have no way out.
          raktmn
          • 1 Year Ago
          @lord.phaggle
          phanggle - It is illegal to fill classic cars, boats, and small engines with E15. Owners of these items will always have a way out of using E15. The E15 law clearly mandates that any gas station that sells E15 must have a dedicated gas pump that will only dispense E10 or lower.
          PriusBlack
          • 1 Year Ago
          @lord.phaggle
          E15 is just another example of clown fart politicians with their heads up something..... The EPA's ideas about E15 are so half baked its hard to imagine how an agency that is supposed to be protecting the environment would promote using corn ethanol in fuel blends. Oh and the EPA window stickers for fuel economy on a car are another indications of hair brained operations in the government. I am an environmental scientist by training, and the EPA annoys me in many different ways! The EPA is an ivory tower full of half baked zealots with goofy notions. I am passionate about sustainability and electric vehicles, but this E15 garbage is a net loose for the environment, public health and the economy!
          lord.phaggle
          • 1 Year Ago
          @lord.phaggle
          That's great but right now there are many stations that have nothing lower than E10 available. If the law stated that pure gas had to be available too, my complaining would stop immediately.
      brotherkenny4
      • 1 Year Ago
      Too bad the SCOTUS couldn't demand an independent test of the contentions. I suppose that would be too practicle and would resolve things. Political theatre is not enhanced by solutions, only contensiousness. Much like reality TV needs to have screamers, politics needs to be noisy and devisive or it just won't peak our interest.
        GoodCheer
        • 1 Year Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        Lawyers (and judges) don't think they need science to determine truth.
      PriusBlack
      • 1 Year Ago
      The owners manual in my Toyota Prius and my Honda PCX specifically say Using fuels with an ethanol contentent greater than 10% may damage the engine and will void you warranty. So these corn farmer/ ethanol/ tax subsized jerks behind big ethanol can take their E15 and drink it! Oh yea, and ever since they started blending ethanol into gas I have noticed a drop in fuel economy in every vehicle I have fueled with E10. Fortunately I live within 10 miles of a Cenex Station that serves up ethanol free gasoline. Screw E15, it will eat through engine components in engines not specifically designed to handle ethanol fuel blends greater than 10%.
      Jim
      • 1 Year Ago
      Thank god those consumer watchdogs and safety advocates at the API have our backs. I'll sleep well knowing that our health is their primary concern.
        PriusBlack
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jim
        One way or the other E15 is DOA in an engine not designed to burn ethanol as fuel!
          omni007
          • 1 Year Ago
          @PriusBlack
          if you'd quit breaking the law and putting E15 into engines not built for it, you'd be ok. don't be a criminal :)
      Reggie
      • 1 Year Ago
      E15 will wreck millions and millions of perfectly good serviceable cars send the to a early grave, meaning millions and millions of new cars will have to be built, what an absolute disaster for the worlds environment. THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER... What's the carbon footprint of ... a new car? "MAKING A NEW CAR CREATES AS MUCH CARBON POLLUTION AS DRIVING IT", so it's often better to keep your old banger on the road than to upgrade to a greener model. The carbon footprint of a new car: 6 tonnes CO2e: Citroen C1, basic spec 17 tonnes CO2e: Ford Mondeo, medium spec 35 tonnes CO2e: Land Rover Discovery, top of the range The carbon footprint of making a car is immensely complex. Ores have to be dug out of the ground and the metals extracted. These have to be turned into parts. Other components have to be brought together: rubber tyres, plastic dashboards, paint, and so on. All of this involves transporting things around the world. The whole lot then has to be assembled, and every stage in the process requires energy. The companies that make cars have offices and other infrastructure with their own carbon footprints, which we need to somehow allocate proportionately to the cars that are made. In other words, even more than with most items, the manufacture of a car causes ripples that extend throughout the economy. To give just one simple example among millions, the assembly plant uses phones and they in turn had to be manufactured, along with the phone lines that transmit the calls. The ripples go on and on for ever. Attempts to capture all these stages by adding them up individually are doomed from the outset to result in an underestimate, because the task is just too big. The best we can do is use so-called input-output analysis to break up the known total emissions of the world or a country into different industries and sectors, in the process taking account of how each industry consumes the goods and services of all the others. If we do this, and then divide by the total emissions of the auto industry by the total amount of money spent on new cars, we reach a footprint of 720kg CO2e per £1000 spent. This is only a guideline figure, of course, as some cars may be more efficiently produced than others of the same price. But it's a reasonable ballpark estimate, and it suggests that cars have much bigger footprints than is traditionally believed. Producing a medium-sized new car costing £24,000 may generate more than 17 tonnes of CO2e – almost as much as three years' worth of gas and electricity in the typical UK home. Interestingly, the input-outpout analysis suggests that the gas and electricity used by the auto industry itself, including all the component manufacturers as well as the assembly plant, accounts for less than 12% of the total. The rest is spread across everything from metal extraction (33%), rubber manufacture (3%) and the manufacture of tools and machines (5%) through to business travel and stationary for car company employees.
        Ele Truk
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Reggie
        In 2008, the steel industry recovered and recycled more than 14 million tons of shredded steel scrap from automobiles—a recycling rate of 95 percent, according to the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI). Most metal for new cars comes from old cars, not mined.
      hardwired22ears
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ethanol is essentially grain alcohol produced from crops such as corn that is mixed with gasoline to produce an ethanol-gasoline blend motor fuel. In October 2010, the EPA approved the use of E15 in model year 2007 and newer light-duty vehicles (cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles). Then, in January 2011, the EPA added model year 2001-06 light-duty vehicles to the approved list. Now note this.......No motorcycles or ATVs are currently on the list.
        PriusBlack
        • 1 Year Ago
        @hardwired22ears
        Yea, E10 and E15 is horrible for small engines in scooters, motorcycles, lawn and garden equipment, generators and other machines powered by small displacement motors.
        raktmn
        • 1 Year Ago
        @hardwired22ears
        Neither are boats, or small engines like lawn mowers or chain saws, or stationary generators. This is because the EPA did not conduct any testing on those engines. That is all. It does not mean anything one way or the other about whether they would pass any tests if they were actually conducted. It just means that the EPA didn't test them, and the E15 law does not include them. The E15 law mandates that E10 or E0 always be available at all gas stations to fill these vehicles. So as long as you follow the law, you will be fine.
      chargefan
      • 1 Year Ago
      How come Brazil doesn't seem to have so much trouble with ethanol?
        PriusBlack
        • 1 Year Ago
        @chargefan
        Because vehicles sold in Brazil are designed as dual fuel engines that can run on either gasoline or ethanol or any ratio mixture of these two fuels. DUH !
        PriusBlack
        • 1 Year Ago
        @chargefan
        Because vehicles sold in Brazil are designed as dual fuel engines that can run on either gasoline or ethanol or any ratio mixture of these two fuels. DUH !
      Nick
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ethanol is bad and a waste of money. HOWEVER, the money is wasted IN the U.S., versus being sent to Saudi Arabia for oil. It's the lesser of two evils.
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