EPA Increases Allowable Ethanol Content in Gas

I’ve written in the past about how many drivers have reported significant drops in mileage when using a 10% ethanol-blended gas. That post spurred a ton of discussion, so I thought it would be worth highlighting a bit of ethanol-related news that I recently ran across…

Did you know that the EPA has approved E15 (gas with 15% ethanol) for use in 2007 model year and newer cars? In fact, they’re considering extending approval all the way back to the 2001 model year, depending on how their current round of testing turns out.

Apparently they took this action in response to a 2009 request by “ethanol backer” Growth Energy and 54 ethanol manufacturers. Keep in mind that this ruling simply allows E15, and does not require it. Still, this is something that you’ll probably run across at some point in the not-too-distant future.

In a subsequent article, USA Today tackled the question of exactly what this change means for you. In short, higher levels of ethanol could cause corrosion in engines not designed for it.

While proponents argue that ethanol is a great way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, detractors have raised a number of concerns ranging from negative environmental effects to concerns over the impact of corn-based ethanol on food prices.

What do you think? Are you a fan of ethanol? Or would you prefer your gas straight?

Source: USA Today

16 Responses to “EPA Increases Allowable Ethanol Content in Gas”

  1. Anonymous

    Forget all the lower MPG facts about lousy ethanol ,just look at what the Farmers are doing Worldwide to hurt the Enviroment. Because growing Corn is now SO profitable they are clearing MILLIONS of acres to grow more of it. Thousands of less productive, formerly idle acres, that wildlife was flourishing on are being cleared. In S. America more and more Rain Forest is being cleared. In the USA wetlands are being drained. Its typical of what happens when our corrupt govt gets involved. Its all a payoff to big Agribusiness.

  2. Anonymous

    I would definitely like to be given the option of what gas to use and not have it mandatory. I am just now
    realizing that my reduced mileage is probably from using the ethanol blend also. I have kept up the maintenance on the car and can see no other reason for the reduced milage. How are we saving the environment when we have to buy MORE gas because of our reduce MPG?
    I will be looking for regular gas and pay more and hopefully get better gas mileage. My MPG have dropped from 18-20 down to 14.6!!!!

  3. Anonymous

    And here I thought I was the only one in Iowa that knew ethanol was a complete sham. Not only BTU negative, but the raising of endless acres of corn for it’s production further degrades the soil and water of this state. Add the cost & impact of heavy nitrogen fertilizer, and you have nothing short of a full blown government conspiracy. Screw Big Ag–they are going to kill us before this is done. Look what they have done to the meat industry, for example.

  4. Anonymous

    E15 continues this Ethanol national tragedy. I esitmate that it costs the USA $100B per year in ADDED oil imports, insane subsidies, and raised prices.

    Note that the EPA is not just “allowing E15”, it is “allowing E15 WITHOUT TESTING IT FOR MPG OR EMISSIONS”. If the EPA tested pure gas (oh wait, the EPA does test E0 now) and compared it with MPG of E10 (that’s what all of us drive with, since refiners appear to make E5 or worse in every case in America) then E10 mileage would be about 17% worse that E0!!!

    Which is in fact exactly why the EPA’s “real world” MPG is a function of 17% lower than their E0 results. Real world means “using E5 or worse”, and not *BS* about driving style, etc.

  5. Anonymous

    I’d like to mention that Germany refused to go with E10 fuels (back in 2008), citing concerns that 50% of the cars on the road will have difficulty with the fuel.

    Germany isn’t in bed with the corn industry — which is the US’s #1 agriculture export.

    We actually had E10 back in the 70s (it was called gasohol) and it wreaked havoc on engines then. Most manufacturers allow you to run E10 today, but anything more will VOID YOUR WARRANTY.

    A brand new 2011 Chevrolet warranty states explicitly to never go over 10% ethanol (unless you have a flex-fuel E85 capable engine) — as it will void your warranty.

    I don’t care that the EPA says that it is safe in 2007 and newer cars, because my warranty says it isn’t.

  6. Anonymous

    You know what annoys me most about this? Is that legislators are focusing on ethanol as a “green” option when the greenest thing to do would be to regulate heavy trucks and commercial vehicles.

    I took an Environmental class back in college as part of my ChE Degree and my instructor said that 80% of the pollution from transportation comes from less than 20% of the vehicles. The technology exists, but yet every time I’m behind a bus or dump truck I get a face full of black smoke puffed in my direction.

  7. Anonymous

    E10 is tough on older cars. I have two, a 1991 Volvo and a 1994 Toyota. I don’t have the option of buying E-zero gasoline anymore where I live. Worse mileage and engine damage aside, the only people benefitting from this ethanol push are Big Ag who get all sorts of subsidies to grow corn, which as a food crop is of poor quality, more so the genetically-modified versions.

  8. Anonymous

    The amount of energy required to grow, harvest and process the corn into ethanol (the sun excluded) is greater than the energy content of the ethanol itself. Even if engines can tolerate 10-15% ethanol, ethanol still has a lower energy density than gasoline, meaning people will get fewer miles per gallon out of their cars. Maybe we’ll find a different plant or algae that can give us a positive energy return, but until we do, this whole thing is just a sham to subsidize the agribuisness.

  9. Anonymous

    Trueman, you quoted a USDA (pro corn) source. Perhaps more research in a less biased area would give you truer numbers. M. Pollan address this topic in “The Omnivore’s Delemma”. Having been in the energy business all my adult life, nuclear power as well as conventional you have to look at all the numbers. The Oil guys like corn sourced energy added to the gas because they know that the resulting loss in MPG means that the cars will come back to the gas station more frequently. Look at the added costs of the trillions of dollars keeping troops in the Middle East to ensure that we get a portion of the oil. Ask yourself how much cheaper our fuel would be if we had subsidized our own domestic energy industry with the trillions spent over there. In hindsight it would have been way cheaper to stay out of the M.E. and buy the oil on the world market.

  10. Anonymous

    We have been using E-10 in our 2010 Prius, recently we found a pump with E-20 and we have seen our mpg come up from 50mpg to 51mpg. I like the idea of using domestic fuel and not sending our american funds to hostile countries.

  11. Anonymous

    Give me regular gasoline. Unfortunatly I don’t know where to find gasoline without ethanol.

    If they specify 15% ethanol for vehicles after 2007 how does a gas station handle this? Do they add another pump that has 15% or do they just make all of it 15% and you have to search for it that does not have it?

  12. Anonymous

    @Alissa

    While it should be noted that taking more energy than it saves in gas is not necessarily a problem, provided that this energy is available from less portable, flexible, or reliable sources.

    My understanding, however, is that it winds up using more *gasoline* to produce than it displaces – which means it’s really *just* a way to funnel money toward large agribusiness, as you said.

  13. Anonymous

    Corn ethanol is also energetically costly to make, more costly than regular gasoline. So while some people talk about it saving gas, it actually costs more in the total picture when you take into account production. Plus as the first commenter said, add in the energy expenditure to truck the stuff around, and it really is a big waste to me. I really wish they get the corn out of my tank!

  14. Anonymous

    I agree with Brad — Ethanol-blended fuels are just a government subsidy to the corn industry.

    Nobody sells straight gasoline in central TX anymore. I’ve gone to mid & premium for my vehicles now in a hope of getting a better blend.

    Ethanol, actually, is a great fuel — if you have a very high compression engine that can really utilize it. Race cars run on ethanol, for example. The low compression engines in consumer cars aren’t geared for this stuff, though the technology in the newer cars is very impressive (E85 cars for example).

    Another big drawback from Ethanol blended fuels (even if you have a car designed specifically for it) is that the Ethanol literally absorbs water — even from the air. It is the water mixed / tainted fuel that kills the MPG. Straight gasoline, on the other hand, floats on top of water (which is why you never want to run your tanks dry).

  15. Anonymous

    In Iowa, everyone except farmers hate ethanol. The producers fail to consider the costs of shipping the stuff in their analysis. It can’t be sent through a pipeline, so a diesel-running semi has to run it across the country. Hardly energy-efficient.

    If gas stations stopped selling non-ethanol fuel, we would burn it down, using gas nozzles as massive flamethrowers. Of course it would take 15% longer to burn to the ground since ethanol’s so inefficient…

    In Iowa, we think ethanol is a sham industry that will never support itself. It’s been good for research, but sometimes you have to cut your losses and go a different direction.

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