New Ethanol-Blend Fuel Approved by EPA Can Damage Car Engines, Group Warns

July 16, 2012 - 1:42 AM

Gaspump

(CNSNews.com) – A new blend of gasoline comprising 15 percent ethanol, approved by the Environmental Protection Agency last month and now available in Kansas, could damage automobile engines, the Kansas Petroleum Council is warning.

“We don’t have a problem with ethanol,” council director Ken Peterson told CNSNews.com. “We use it virtually in every gallon of gasoline that’s produced for sale in this country, but the E15 is kind of a different animal in that both the petroleum industry and the car manufacturers have raised concerns about potential damage from the use of E15 fuel in a misfueling situation [putting the wrong type of fuel in your vehicle by mistake].

“And we’re essentially trying to issue a warning, a caveat emptor type of comment, to just be careful about this.”

According to the Coordinating Research Council (CRC), an auto and oil industry project, gasoline has contained 10 percent ethanol for several years. The EPA has now raised the “approved” level of ethanol to 15 percent, which is a major concern to these industries.

“Although ethanol is known for its solvency and corrosive nature, material changes have made current engines and vehicles robust to ethanol concentrations in gasoline of up to 10 volume percent,” it said in a report.

“The engine durability testing in this CRC study addresses possible concerns due to the use of gasoline blends containing 15 or 20 volume percent ethanol.”

E15 sign

According to the CRC report, the EPA is promoting the use of more ethanol in gasoline as a result of the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act, passed in Dec. 2007, which mandates that 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels be used by the year 2022.

In a press release, Peterson of the Kansas Petroleum Council charged that the EPA was trying to push a “political agenda” and did not have the public’s best interests at heart.

“Our first priority should be protecting consumers and the investments they’ve made in their automobiles,” he said. “EPA has an obligation to base this decision on science and not on a political agenda.”

Speaking to CNSNews.com, Peterson said he believes the EPA “ jumped the gun in advance of the elections because of the popularity of the ethanol and biodiesel fuels in the Midwest.”

Studies carried out jointly by auto and petroleum industries have shown that E15 automobile damage can come in the form of poor performance, loss of engine power due to loss of compression, and durability issues, he said. Overall, resulting engine repairs could cost anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000.

The Department of Energy in response to the CRC report said it “failed to establish a proper control group, a standard component of scientific, data-driven testing” that was needed in order to determine results.

The department had conducted its own research and found no evidence that engines would be damaged by the new fuel, it said in a statement on its Web site.

“The Energy Department conducted its own rigorous, thorough and peer-reviewed study of the impact of E15 fuel on current, conventional vehicle catalyst systems. The Energy Department study included an inspection of critical engine components, such as valves, and did not uncover unusual wear that would be expected to impact performance,” it said.

“The resulting Energy Department data showed no statistically significant loss of vehicle performance (emissions, fuel economy, and maintenance issues) attributable to the use of E15 fuel compared to straight gasoline.”

The EPA says that the regulation is merely an option, not a mandate.

The new product may be sold only after the additive manufacturer has registered E15 with the EPA and submits a “misfueling mitigation plan” – basically an explanation how suppliers will minimize the possibility that customers will use the incorrect fuel, for example decisions relating to pump nozzles, correct signage and labeling etc.

E15 fuel is approved only for “light-duty motor vehicles” in model years 2001 or newer.