Critics: E15 hurts engines; ethanol fans rip new study

Source: DAN PILLER, Des Moines Register • Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012

The American Petroleum Institute contended on Wednesday that studies show that gasoline with 15 percent ethanol could harm vehicle engines.

President and CEO Jack Gerard criticized the decision last year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to expand the blend limit of ethanol in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent.

“EPA’s decisions in 2010 and 2011 approving E15 ethanol-gasoline blends for most American vehicles were premature and irresponsible,” Gerard said. “EPA approved E15 knowing ongoing vehicle testing had not been completed. Worse, as API noted in its press briefing two weeks ago, it approved the fuel even though government labs had raised red flags about the compatibility of E15 with much of the dispensing and storage infrastructure at our nation’s gas stations.”

Monte Shaw of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said the study is “just bad science.”

“What they did was use a very aggressive form of ethanol blend, about a 17 percent blend, and didn’t use the 10 percent blend as a baseline,” said Shaw. “So you don’t know how much of that engine damage might have happened anyway.”

The EPA’s approval was for automobiles of the 2001 model year or later. The API, which represents the largest oil companies, opposed the expansion of the ethanol blend. About 10 percent of the gasoline used in the U.S. now is made up of the ethanol blend.

The studies were done by the Coordinated Research Council, known as the CRC. It is a nonprofit research and testing organization made up of automobile and oil companies.

Iowa is the nation’s largest producer of ethanol, with 41 plants that in 2011 produced 3.7 billion of the 13 billion gallons of ethanol produced nationwide.

“Ironically, EPA’s decisions actually threaten broader use of biofuels,” Gerard said. “Federal law requires blending of increasing amounts of biofuels in gasoline, and most of the gasoline now sold in America has ethanol in it. Yet, if E15 is introduced and vehicle problems develop, public support for E15 and the federal renewable fuels program could erode.”