Automaker-backed study sounds the alarm against E15

Another day, another opinion on the feasibility of E15.

This time, a group called the Coordinating Research Council released a study saying that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision to push for allowing gas with a 15-percent ethanol blend (aka E15) to be sold to the general public for newer cars may have been a bad one because of potentially harmful effect the fuel may have on older vehicles, the New York Times reports.

E15 may compromise the durability of the engines of most of the cars on the road because automakers didn't design the vehicles to run on E15, which has 50% more ethanol than the current maximum of a 10-percent ethanol blend (i.e. E10), the group says.

Of course, Coordinating Research Council is backed by – wait for it – eight automakers as well as the American Petroleum Institute (API), according to the Times. The automakers have long pushed to delay E15 approval because of engine durability concerns while the API represents a petroleum industry whose demand is inversely related to how much ethanol's being used in light-duty vehicles.

With that in mind, Patrick B. Davis, an Energy Department program manager specializing in vehicle testing, said in a blog post that the new study is "flawed" in part because the study didn't involve the testing of E10's impact on engines. Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen called the report "junk science."

The EPA in April approved the first applications to make E15 amid protests from automakers and recreation vehicle makers that have claimed that the higher alcohol content may damage engines and fuel systems. The government has gone back and forth on the issue, both pushing for higher ethanol production levels to cut foreign-oil dependence while last year terminating a 30-year tax subsidy on corn-based ethanol.

Recently, The Auto Channel reported that researchers at University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University estimated that ethanol production cut the average cost of fuel last year by $1.09 a gallon because of lower ethanol prices and broader use of fuels such as E10.

More Information