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Max ethanol blend upped to 15 percent

By Claes Bell ·
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Posted: 4 pm ET

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.

The ethanol content of gas could be going up, costing you even more at the pump

The ethanol content of gas could be going up, costing you even more at the pump

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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John Perf
October 28, 2010 at 8:59 pm

BOAT OWNERS BEWARE !!! Put a few grand aside for the issues that lay ahead in regards to boats and ethanol. I had to replace 2 fiberglass tanks at a cost of thousands due to E10. And, to add insult to injury, I had fuel clog problems in both my engines that cost even more money.
This is a very bad situation, especially for the boating/marine industry as a whole and will continue to have a negative effect. Boaters, hold on tight and be prepared or major issues.

Bob Cruger
October 13, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Ethanol is nothing but a subsidy for the farm belt. As corn crops sre diverted from our food supply into ethanol production, the result is higher food prices. When the highly corrosive nature of ethanol destroys our engines, will we be smart enough to realize the true cause. Although our present engines can indeed burn E15, the problem is the sediment that is broken loose in our fuel tanks will clog our fuel injectors probably even before the deteriorating gaskets and seals start to leak. We are indeed the country with the best politicians money can buy........

October 13, 2010 at 5:13 pm

You make a lot of good points about the down sides of ethanol. Consumers and voters are just so sick of all the economic and political problems from petroleum, that ethanol seems like a better alternatives. Other options like improved public transportation systems and electric cars are long-term solutions that require a lot more work to implement. Adding more ethanol to already existing gasoline infrastructure is an easier solution, but as you point out, it may not be the best solution.