A 50-percent increase in alcohol content may knock even the most seasoned drinker off of his (or her) feet, but a 50-percent jump in ethanol won't throw off a car's engine. That's the short version of a new National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report, and we expect pro-ethanol advocates to use it frequently against Big Oil and its efforts to roll back increased ethanol mandates. The caveat, of course, is that the NREL study was sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), so we understand if some will question the objectivity.

The RFA, of course, highlighted the NREL's finding that there were no "meaningful differences" in the performance of engines running on a 10-percent ethanol blend (i.e. E10, which is standard-issue in the US) and a 15-percent blend (i.e. E15). Using 43 studies as a base, the NREL surmised that, when it came to engine performance and durability in light-duty vehicles that were made after the 2000 model year, E10 and E15 are basically the same thing.

Big Oil has been squawking about the potential dangers of E15 since last June, when the EPA officially approved public distribution of E15 at US service stations. E15 is not widely available yet, but it is expanding. So brace yourself for another response from Big Oil. In the meantime, the RFA has a link to the NREL report here.


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  • 56 Comments
      EVnerdGene
      • 7 Months Ago
      ahh, the classic know-it-all adolescent I sympathize with your parents. parent1; honey; who's that know-it-all azzhole staying in the front bedroom? parent2; I dunno, but he reminds me a lot of you, , , honey http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eKYyD14d_0 FOOD INC. Scene in movie where the scientist sticks his hand in a live cow's stomach to sample undigested corn. Truly disgusting (not shown in trailer).
      Marcopolo
      • 1 Year Ago
      @ omni007 Sorry, I also forget to mention, I live in a city of 4 million people with the same percentage of cars as any American city, yet without any ethanol available, the air quality is better or equal to any American city.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'll trust my car's manual over any of this. My brand new '14 Mazda has dire warnings about using anything over E10. They'll actually *void the warranty* on a brand new car if I use it. So yes, there's a meaningful difference- potentially a costly one.
      mustsvt
      • 1 Year Ago
      It doesn't matter if the engine will be damaged or not. Fuel mileage will take another hit going to E15 and that is not acceptable. Leave corn food please...
      Steven W. Diffy
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ethanol free gas is most beneficial for the two vehicles I have. My mileage (mpg) increases 10% and my vehicles run much smoother. The 10% ethanol is just a filler like water. So you can rant and rave how it saves us, it does not. I monitor my mpg every tank. In my ECHO i went from 350 miles on a tank of fuel to 429. It has averaged 400 miles per tank since. You do the math.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Steven W. Diffy
        I too noticed a large improvement in mpgs using ethanol-free gas in my wife's former VW. However, it wasn't really enough of an improvement to justify the added $0.50 per gallon cost.
      Smoking_dude
      • 1 Year Ago
      I know I will be instantaneously downvoted for that. E10 is similar to E15 in the USA. Ppl are desperate. Even if thed drive an us-spec vehicle that is E10 capable since the 1970s Also some STEALERships blame E10 for every mechanic breakdown. Busted engine support: first comment E10 is to blame. I did not experience a dip in fuel economy. with e10. I start to notice it at e30. Yes please hate my now. I try to destroy cars with much higher ration like E45 to E70 but none of them failed. But I agree that corn mono cultures for fuel are the wrong way. On the other hand, while everbody is screaming and complaining there are much higer ammounts of food wasted to produce cheap meat. but with our wealth we demand meat on the table every day. another hoge waste is palm oil. the larges ammount goes into food production, and cosmetics. no one cares. so this debate is kinda ridiculous.
        raktmn
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Smoking_dude
        Brazil has been running cars with ethanol mixes up into the 20% range for decades. The median age of cars in the US is ~11 years old. In Brazil, the median car age is 14 years.
        raktmn
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Smoking_dude
        I get lower MPG at my normal E35-E45 mix compared to E10, but with my turbo charged engine I make significantly more power, with the power coming on earlier and harder as boost increase. It is like running race fuel, by my mix is less than buying premium instead of more like race fuel costs much more than premium. Like anything that improves power, I expect to lose MPG. With that said, I lose way less MPG at E35-E45 than a lot of the jokers say they lose by running E10. Personally, my car can't handle much past E50-E60, because I start hitting the maximum flow rate for my fuel injectors, and my ECU automatically backs off the power. It wouldn't hurt it to go past this point, it would just lose power at high RPM WOT, so I haven't tried going past that point. I used VAG-COM software installed on my laptop to test various mixes and watch everything in realtime. So I have a very good understanding on exactly how my vehicle reacts. Both of our non-turbo cars max out at about E30 before the ECU starts showing a lean fuel trim on high RPM WOT runs. Not enough to throw a code, but I didn't see a point in pushing it further. They would be fine for more than E30 if they were driven more conservatively, but I stop at E30 just in case I need a 6000+ RPM full acceleration run. But our biggest success story is our diesel truck for my wife's business. It definitely prefers B20 over straight diesel. The lubricity qualities of the biodiesel has meant I've been able to stop buying lubricity additives. That just about makes up for the price premium for B20. At the 150K service, I pulled the injectors for a spray test, and they were making such perfect patterns that I didn't even bother with bench cleaning the injectors. I've never seen injectors spraying so well on any vehicle running gas or diesel at those miles. Most vehicles start having odd spray patterns by that many miles of straight gas or diesel. Best part is that there is zero reduction in MPG with B20.
        omni007
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Smoking_dude
        Interesting. What kind of car is yours? I've done the same with my 2007 Honda Fit, and got very similar results. About 10% difference in mileage at E30, and about 30% difference with E70. But the engine is very peppy with the higher E-mixes, and I notice the exhaust is much less of a burden on the lungs, especially on a cold start. And I have sensitive lungs.
      Greg
      • 1 Year Ago
      The problem I have with E15 (besides using corn instead of a better source stock for ethanol) is that I have a hard time believing that it will somehow stay only an "option." I have to buy E10 because the law requires it. There is no place within ~150 mi that sells normal gas. People didn't start using it because they wanted it or chose it over regular gas. What is so fundamentally different about E10 &E15 that I can rest easy knowing that the same legal requirements will not similarly appear? If E15 is somehow better than E10 (which would be necessary for anyone to want it), why would I then not expect it to eventually displace E10? How is maintaining an extra, different fuel desirable for retailers? Why is E15 being pushed at all? I doubt it will measurably affect pollution (and if not, why sell it, and if so, why won't it be mandated?), so I can only conclude it exists solely so the corn lobby can increase demand for their product (which also suggests their next step will be to push mandating it). I can't bring myself to believe someone who says both "It's not that big of a deal," and "We need to sell this product so much that we will push for a law."
        raktmn
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Greg
        Greg, that is a recycled complaint from when E85 was rolled out. It was just as bogus then as it is with E15. But you are protected under the E15 regulations. Not a single drop of E15 can be sold by any gas station unless they also have a dedicated E10 or E0 pump that can't be used for any other mix of fuel. Your recycled comment reminds me of all the recycled battery replacement cost fears that all the Hybrid car haters went on and on about when hybrids first came out. These fears turned out to be overblown. Now the same arguments are being recycled just like you are recycling this old E85 canard. This kind of recycling isn't green.
          Greg
          • 7 Months Ago
          @raktmn
          "you are protected under the E15 regulations" - As I already said (if you bothered to read), that is not a convincing argument. Regulations can change at any time. Try to not recycle your own comments and come up with something more compelling than "Everything will be okay because the law says ..." As I clearly stated, such a law inherently unstable (meaning it will either go away or replace the alternative). If you have no reponse to that, then your comment is intellectually bankrupt.
          Allch Chcar
          • 7 Months Ago
          @raktmn
          Off-road engines are not approved for E15 nor are non-FFVs prior to 2001. The EPA will not mandate all Gasoline be E15 for this reason. The EPA is looking into increasing Ethanol blend availability and Ethanol use as a whole. For the market to work, we need to eliminate the strangle hold Oil Refineries have on local fuel stations and their Gasoline Supply. Right now it's very difficult for a fuel station to offer competitively price alternatives without losing their Gasoline contracts. Requiring Oil Refineries to blend Ethanol will only work to a point. The future is to eliminate the middle man(Oil Refineries) and have fuel stations purchase Ethanol and Biodiesel (or others) directly from the source and pass the lower prices onto consumers.
        omni007
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Greg
        http://green.autoblog.com/2013/10/09/beijing-shuts-highways-airport-in-smog-battle/ Smog. That was the original stated reason for the 10% ethanol mandate. Who knows if it was the right way to handle it or not. People were getting desperate, so a solution was demanded. MTBE was used before ethanol, but it was polluting groundwater. It's VERY effective at causing cancer. Ethanol has already been proven effective at reducing smog, but as you say, there may not be much difference between E10 and E15 as far as smog-reduction. I won't pretend to know whether someone will pull a stunt like trying to mandate E15 or not. But I don't know why you should even care if it's made available only on an optional basis. I mean, for those vehicles which are legally allowed to use E15 (which are in the minority), it is cheaper at the pump, so who cares if those owners get another option?
          raktmn
          • 1 Year Ago
          @omni007
          Greg, you are whining about the removal of lead from our gasoline that was causing brain damage in our children? You clearly were exposed to too much lead as a child, because you are showing the brain damage.
          Greg
          • 1 Year Ago
          @omni007
          "I don't know why you should even care if it's made available" That's a fair point. I don't really care if a gas station wants to waste its money to add extra dispensers, tanks, etc., for a fuel that--like E85--few people actually want. If that's all it was, then the market would solve the problem--like it has with E85--and keep it out of nearly every gas station. No problem there. No, this is a product that consumers are not asking for, which should raise some red flags. While raktmn thinks the govt will protect my older engines from E15, I see this product being created by govt demand to increase use of ethanol. We all know that ethanol is mandated because of the corn lobby. It's subsidized. Ethanol isn't the only oxygenate available to reduce smog. But since E85 has been rejected by the market, and we have ethanol quotas to meet, E15 is being squeezed in instead. Now, what happens if the market rejects E15 just as it rejected E85? How will we deal with the rising govt mandate to use more ethanol? I personally believe the market would have rejected E10 if it had not been required by law, but it became the default anyway. Hence my concern--if the market does not latch on to what the govt wants them to, the govt will change the rules to force them to. The American public didn't embrace high mpg cars when given the chance, and so the govt forced them to. The public didn't embrace catalytic converters, so the govt forced them to. The govt forced the switch to unleaded gas. That's how the system works, and I have no problem with that--so long as what we are forced to do is for our good and not the good of a small number of people who happen to grow corn. So, - Is there reason to believe that E15 exists for some other reason than to put money in corn farmers' pockets? If we quit subsidizing ethanol from corn and mandating its use, what would happen to the impetus for E15? Would go away? If so, why defend it? - Do we have evidence that E15 is superior to E10? How much better is it? - Is there a reasonable argument that proves increasing ethanol mandates will NOT lead to E15 becoming a requirement? If E15 does not become a requirement and ethanol mandates are not repealed, how will we meet the increased ethanol quotas? - If E15 comes to market and fails like E85 has, will the corn lobby give up? Or will they find another crack to shove ethanol into? Should we assume the future will be different than the past?
      Marcopolo
      • 1 Year Ago
      @ omni007 " Eliminate greed " Well, I'll admit I have no idea how to eliminate greed, or create world peace or any other noble, idealistic, Utopian concepts. My approach to environmental issues, is pretty simple. I try to identify targets that can be achieved, and will attract maximum support with the least opposition. Just as I would do in business. I try to prioritize, and concentrate on the achievable. I believe getting bogged down ranting about the ills of Oil companies, and reforming human nature, is a waste of time. My interest in the environment, comes from a farming background. Like you i was once a fan of Bio-fuels (especially bio-diesel). However, that was before I realized the logistical, and environmental downsides, revealed by careful research . My late wife was a passionate environmental advocate (and activist), because of her I began exploring the ways various fossil fueled products could be replaced by electricity, etc. I was an early investor in Solar and bio-mass power generation. (I got out of Solar, just as the PRC companies came into production). 16 years ago, I invested in a smallish, nearly bankrupt EV manufacturer, and by restructuring the business to create/supply specialist EV's for wide range of purposes, including resort rentals. The business has expanded considerably over the years, and is now successful to occupy very little of my time. I'm a passionate activist for the abolition of Marine Grade No 6 fuel, (Bunker Oil). This product of the oil industry has the unsavory reputation of being the single largest cause of environmental damage on the planet ! It's a completely unnecessary pollutant, and no longer even very economic. Bunker oil could be obsolete within 5-7 seven years, if the US and 8 other maritime democracies could find the political will to act. But, that's the way I see things. In my opinion, the US corn based ethanol industry does more harm than good, and could be easily phased out. Although, it would be terrific is the global use of gasoline and diesel could be also phased out, that's not really feasible in the foreseeable future. So, IMO is better to do what can be done, and not letting the perfect be the enemy of the merely good.
      Marcopolo
      • 1 Year Ago
      @ omni007 Beijing's smog would not be helped by using corn Ethanol in the USA ! The introduction of the US corn based Ethanol Industry, has not improved anything environmentally, in fact it's just made the situation worse by introducing another, even more environmentally disastrous product, so now the US has two harmful products, instead of one ! Never mind Beijing, look at the long term harm to the US. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-14/gulf-of-mexico-s-extinction-by-ethanol.html Or look at the devastation to the Central American people and Rainforests; http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/01/how-us-eu-biofuel-policy-beggars-global-southhttp:// www.deseretnews.com/article/865570406/Are-biofuels-starving-the-worlds-poor.html Nearly everyone in the scientific or environmental community who once supported US corm based Ethanol (including the EPA and IER, UN etc) has long since changed their opinion of this Industry. Only the RFA lobby group, along with it's Big Ag lobbyists, farm state politicians, and a few to out-of-date, or stubborn to realize that the Experiment with US corn to produce fuel has been a failure, still continue. http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/54281 http://www.nucleartownhall.com/blog/william-tucker-bad-week-for-biofuels/ http://www.energytrendsinsider.com/2013/06/06/why-the-timing-is-ripe-for-ethanol-policy-reform/ Maybe it's time you stared considering what the the US corn-based Ethanol industry is really costing the planet ?
      EVnerdGene
      • 7 Months Ago
      Corn, often called maiz or maize in other parts of the world, is a staple of billions of people. "great cattle food" ? Corn is not a natural food for grazers like cattle. It makes them sick. Hence massive doses of antibiotics are required to get them to market. Do you benefit from those antibiotics and hormones given to cattle ?
      Electron
      • 1 Year Ago
      Another battle in the oil industry's war of attrition on ethanol.....Admittedly, it does make sense for it to defend its turf against technology that has further greater short term potential to cut in to it's strangle hold on the automotive fuel market than plug-ins do. 100% adoption of E15 means a 5% reduction in demand for for crude based automotive fuels, far more than plug-ins will cause in a long time to come and what's next, E20? With billions at stake this war will only get uglier.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Big Oil companies don't want anyone to use E15, and they're spending huge amounts of money to stop it. Why?
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