This week the EPA approved using a fuel mixture of 85 percent gasoline and 15 percent ethanol, known as E15, in cars built in the 2007 model year and beyond.
A coalition of environmental, energy, power equipment and motor vehicle industry groups opposed the move (talk about strange bedfellows), on the grounds that corrosive ethanol can begin to damage emissions and fuel-system equipment in all types of machines, from cars to snowmobiles.
This isn't the first time I've heard of this issue. My wife's uncle is an avid boater and has long complained about the negative impact of E10 on boat engines' carburetors. My understanding is that same impact applies to classic cars driven by carburetors.
This move strikes me as a bad idea, even over and above the E10 standard I wrote about a few weeks ago. Some readers were pretty annoyed about my contention that ethanol costs American drivers money every time they go to the pump. A few readers advanced the argument that adding government-subsidized ethanol makes gas cheaper at the pump, so the loss of fuel economy it causes is a wash that's ultimately beneficial to the U.S. economy because it supports Midwestern farmers.
That would be an effective argument if ethanol were significantly cheaper than gasoline, but it's not. Right now, pure ethanol is trading at about $2.12 a gallon, while wholesale gasoline is at about $2.16. A discount of 4 cents a gallon at the wholesale level is just not going to translate into a reduction of fuel prices big enough to offset the fuel economy hit from E15, especially since that discount may disappear altogether if corn prices rise as many experts predict.
Add that to the confusion of having an extra pump at every station only for 2007 and later cars, and it's hard to see how consumers win if ethanol content goes up to 15 percent. What do you think? Am I off-base here?
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