Ouch! EPA ethanol decision angers … just about everyone


I’ll bet today was one of those days that Environmental Protection Agency officials wish they had stayed in bed.

The agency announcement that it approved the use of 15 percent ethanol fuel blends in cars made in 2007 and later managed to draw the ire of just about everyone, oil industry and environmentalists alike.

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association said the decision was all about politics and that the EPA was asking consumers to “pump first, ask questions later:”

EPA’s unwise and premature decision to allow the sale of gasoline with higher levels of ethanol may be good politics in Corn Belt states on the eve of the midterm elections, but it is bad news for every American who owns a car, truck, motorcycle, boat, snowmobile, lawnmower, chainsaw or anything else powered by gasoline.

The ethanol industry has won a victory today by convincing the federal agency charged with protecting our nation’s public health and environment to disregard public safety and environmental issues and instead base a major policy decision on inadequate engine test data that has not been made public or reviewed independently. The American people are the losers today because EPA has violated President Obama’s 2009 commitment to them to put science ahead of politics.

The American Petroleum Institute also expressed concern that  the decision was made without testing, given the possible impact on consumers:

The large majority of today’s vehicle warranties only cover gasoline with up to 10 percent ethanol.  More ethanol in gasoline could result in the voiding of customer warranties.  The EPA also seems to believe that a label on the pump will keep consumers safe from misfueling, but the impacts of misfueling are unknown until the necessary research is completed.

Environmental groups don’t necessarily love ethanol, either. Friends of the Earth campaign coordinator Kate McMahon says ethanol actually leads to more greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA’s own studies.

The only thing ‘green’ about ethanol is the color of the cash subsidies handed to it by Congress,” added McMahon.  “With this announcement, the Obama administration is bucking its own scientific findings in favor of maintaining President Bush’s failed energy policies, which increased the consumption of bad biofuels like ethanol, instead of promoting truly sustainable alternatives.”

Increased blends of ethanol in gasoline could increase emissions of toxic air pollutants, in particular nitrogen dioxide, when burned in engines not built to withstand more ethanol.  This danger applies to the vast majority of engines currently in service, from cars to boats to lawnmowers.

And, believe it or not, some in the ethanol industry are unhappy with the EPA’s decision, too.

The Renewable Fuels Association berates the EPA’s lack of scientific study for another reason: It creates an arbitrary line for which vehicles can use E15:

EPA’s scientifically unjustified bifurcation of the U.S. car market will do little to move the needle and expand ethanol use today,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “Limiting E15 use to 2007 and newer vehicles only creates confusion for retailers and consumers alike. … It’s almost as though they pulled the number out of a hat. As test after test has demonstrated, E15 is safe and effective in all light duty vehicles.

Tom Fowler

45 Responses

  1. throwfly417 says:


    ‘Ethanol actually provides over 2 btu’s more energy than it takes to produce it according to multiple studies (University of Nebraska).’

    Really? A study from the Cornhusker State? There isn’t going to be any bias in those statistics… What about transportation costs? C’mon, use your brain. Don’t blindly buy into the rhetoric.

  2. Roger Willco says:

    Henry Ford I, designer of the Model T and perfecter of assembly line production,
    Hated gasoline and tried to go with ethanol
    Reality intervened and the automotive industry went with petroleum
    This ethanol fraud gets ‘trotted out’ every so often
    Ethanol, windgeneration, solar-voltaic, ‘Shaded Pole’ electrical motors,clean coal generation, sequestration are basically
    ………. A Tax On MORONS ……….
    The sole objective is to ROB you
    Not to better your life or improve the planet

  3. Innominate1 says:

    October 14, 2010, 10:30 AM
    You people just don’t like and have a hard time dealing with change. … You need to be upset with the OIL COMPANIES who force you to turn a blind eye to them because they have the money to buy the publicity and backing that they need to keep going.
    Are you blind, stupid, or just too illiterate to realize that EtOH blending is mandated by the EPA? It’s in the title to this article, and yet you blame it on oil companies. If you actually knew anything about refining, you would realize that oxygenates in fuel increase its corrosivity, thus shortening the lifetime of EVERY piece of steel equipment through which it passes, and that, boyo, means increased refining costs and more government paperwork to get the permits to modify the refinery (the cost of which will be passed along to the consumer). Of course, you’d have to have more than a congressional notion of economics and an EPA knowledge of science and engineering to know these things, so perhaps there is an explanation for your remarks that doesn’t involve malice (Murphy urges us “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”).
    Ethanol actually provides over 2 btu’s more energy than it takes to produce it according to multiple studies (University of Nebraska).
    So what? Its fuel value is about 65% of that of a hydrocarbon of comparable vapor pressure or boiling point. I could teach you the calculations, but it would be like trying to teach a pig to sing.

  4. Tim says:

    it’s annoying to discover (from personal experience) that the ethanol will destroy the injectors in your car – that was 800.00 worth of repairs … there really are mechanical problems that can occur and you only learn about them when the damage is done.

  5. Aaron says:

    Ethanol has less energy than gas (81,800 BTU per gallon e85 vs 114,000 BTU per gallon gasoline) so your mileage and power will go down. Thanks for making my car run worse so that you can put money in the pockets of farmers. Next time just give them the cash not to grow anything – leave my car alone!

    Also, ethanol is mandated in all gas sold in and around Houston. You’re going to have to drive pretty far to get pure gasoline.

    Lastly, after talking to a field tester for Murphy USA he’s seen mixtures of up to 50% ethanol of what’s coming out of the pumps in the area. It’s only up to 10% in bulk, that doesn’t mean that’s what you’re getting at the pump.

    Here’s an article by the Chronicle from 2007 showing testing between e85 and pure gasoline (when it was available here). In the end it costs more to run e85 than gasoline.


  6. Sam says:

    Give us a choice. I don’t want it because it lowers my mileage to the point that I end up burning more gasoline per mile, it costs me more, it uses up way to much water in the production and is bad for the planet. The only thing green about it is the government handouts to the large corporations who make this stuff.

  7. paulw says:

    Lee, this is semi true. Most E85 vehicles are not designated to run 100% ethanol. I also use E85. I like it in town, since you have more horsepower and are quicker off the line, and it’s from America. But out on the highway, it burns through a tank fast.

  8. paulw says:


    I don’t know how accurate this site is, but it doesn’t look like you can get any ethanol-free gas around Houston. One thing not mentioned about ethanol on here is that on older vehicles with rubber fuel lines, the ethanol dries out the lines and causes them to rot. Old, old vehicles with rubber gaskets in the carb, fuel pump, etc, develop air leaks and no longer run in short order. If you have problems, check for leaks in your fuel lines. It’s possible to put new fuel lines on, but why should we have too?

  9. Lee says:

    I have a 2000 Ford Excursion and run e85 (85% Ethanol alcohol, 15% gas)and my truck runs great. I don’t have any “conversion” kit. I just used a little common since. Any vehicle that can run 10% Ethanol can run 100% Ethanol. My truck doesn’t ping or knock because the octane rating of e85 is 100 plus. But “Big Oil” and especially anyone in this petroleum city will have you think otherwise. So….go try it like I did. Put e85 in your vehicle and see if it works. I pay $2.00 per gallon instead of $2.80 a gallon and it makes me feel good that I do not support terroristic nations like Saudia Arabia. If it doesn’t work for your particular vehicle all you have to do is put back in normal gas. Ba-h-h-h-hh, Ba-h-h-hhhh, B-a-h-h-hhhh you sheep.

  10. Linda says:

    According to my dad, who designed refineries for about 25 years and offshore rigs for about 10 years, ethanol is a bad environmental trade off because it burns less efficiently in most cars (by about 20%)and the refining process for ethanol has a very high carbon footprint. Because he believed that it was a poor environmental decision he refused to use ethanol, even though it was cheaper, until gasoline without it was no longer available.

    I have to wonder why this administration is pushing something that is a negative, both environmentally and economicly. Environmentally, the higher the percentage of ethanol the worse it will pollute. Economicly, this will drive up the cost of anything containing corn products. We have already seen a steady increase in the price of corn ever since 10% ethanol became the standard in gasoline. Is there anyone who truely believes that 15% ethanol will not drive corn higher as increased percentages of the corn crop are diverted? Not anyone who takes the time to think about it.

  11. John says:

    It takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol that it provides.
    The ethanol industry cannot survive on its own. It requires governmental subsidies to continue. Ethanol production requires a large portion of our corn production which has caused the cost of foods containing corn or corn products to increase dramatically. Ethanol is a failure and should be discontinued in its entirety.

  12. HWL says:

    but you all keep re-electimg based on party and emotion…
    I want TERM LIMITS and a volunteer Congress
    ..bet you wont do it.

  13. byrd says:

    while I dont agree with the switch to 15%….I do think ethanol made from sugar cane or algae is a good thing for the future. from corn is not cost effective.

    Also what fuel do all you tree huggers expect us to use in our vehicles…you dont like gas and you dont like ethanol….so what fuel are we supposed to use in the vehicles on the road ?

    Sure biodiesel might be a good option for diesels…but what is everyone else supposed to do,,,not everyone is going to run out and get an electric car.
    Also last time I checked the power plants that provide power run on less than clean fuel as well…

    So you greenies are against everything but short on answers, sounds like you want us to all go back to horse and buggies.

  14. Nick K. says:

    “It takes more energy to produce ethanol and releases less energy when consumed”

    Hey Zippy, while I agree with you that E15 and all E-Fules are bad for older vehicles, please understand that ALL fules (oil, coal, steam, gas..ext) take more energy to produce fewer output. This is know as “Hot” Fusion. If someone discovers “Cold” Fusion (were it takes less energy to produce an output of a greater amount) then we wouldn’t be paying $400 eletric bills every month.

  15. John says:

    Bruno622 – irregardless if what you say is true (which there isn’t any proof of oil companies profiting from this)…it is still a bad idea for the American consumer from paying the subsidies and more out of pocket to fill up more often (taxes plus more oil).

    I have the evidence in my car mileage that I check after every fill-up noticeably dropping since 10% ethanol came about. I have also had several gas powered lawn equipment items die on me (as in get a 1-2 year life) even when adding the additives to protect them from the ethanol.

  16. I. O. Ewe says:

    Feed it to livestock, like humanity.

  17. Don says:

    The main problem with even 10% ethanol is that it doesn’t save any gasoline. I keep very good records — every tank of gas gets odometer and gallons recorded. When ethanol was slipped into most regular gasolines, I noticed my mileage decreased about 10%. That means that I was using more total volume of fuel per mile and almost the same amount of gasoline. I found a retailer that was selling no-ethanol gasoline and my mileage increased back to what it had been. Then that supplier had to add ethanol and things dropped back down. So all that is happening is that ADM and a few other mega-agri-processors are getting huge subsidies to convert corn to ethanol and then selling the by-product to livestock producers as a value-added high-protein source. Once more the corporations make it big and we all get it in the end.

    Life really IS like a box of chocolates. The corporations get all the good ones and stick their fingers in the rest (pollution) so all we get is a giant boofoo job.

  18. Clif says:

    ” … It’s almost as though they pulled the number out of a hat.”

    My guess is they probably pulled it out of another, much lower, place.

  19. Jordan says:

    This is all about Obama having to pay back Archer Daniels Midland for their campaign support and flying him around on their corporate jets for free and discounted rates. Obama has and is in bed with the Ethanol industry including former top Republican Senators like Bob Dole from corn producing Kansas. I am in Agri-business and saw this coming back in 2008 when I first read about his campaigning in the Corn Belt.

  20. the_birds says:

    This is a total quid pro quo to the Corn Lobby. Corn growing areas and states which coincidentally surround Obama’s home turf.

    Too much Corn is bad for the USA, period. Just like too much Oil is.

    Its not about government regulation, its about political favors and American palm greasing.

    BTW anyone who thinks that government regulation is a bad thing and supports the “rights” of corporations as good policy is exacerbating the problem. When these corporations exercise their “rights,” (w/campaign contributions) they do it on Capitol Hill and you get repaid with ludicrous policy like this higher Ethanol percentage.

    We have to demand common sense policy on ALL fronts. Relaxing regulation is exactly the wrong thing to do. How do you think Big Corn got so powerful of a voice in the 1st place? We need smart re-regulation. And we need to speak up!

  21. mrjimbo says:

    Ethanol wrecks havoc on the gaskets for the engines especially older engines. To use it properly it needs engines set-up specifically for it.

  22. Bruno622 says:

    You people just don’t like and have a hard time dealing with change. You see what is going to happen here is that oil companies are going to get more money for blending more ethanol and still charge the same price for it. They get 45 cents per gallon that they blend at the moment and still most stations charge the same if not more for petrol. You need to be upset with the OIL COMPANIES who force you to turn a blind eye to them because they have the money to buy the publicity and backing that they need to keep going. Ethanol actually provides over 2 btu’s more energy than it takes to produce it according to multiple studies (University of Nebraska). Just relax, the EPA has been studying this for quite some time and would not have made the decision if they were not comforable with what they saw. The reason for the 2007 and newer cuttoff for now is due to different standards in emission control devises in cars (Tier 1 regulated) after 2007. It is expected that by the end of the year 2001 – 2006 model car testing will be complete and another announcement will be made at the conclusion of those tests. This is a good thing for our country it just might take a paradigm shift for the majority of the population.

  23. TransAmer99 says:

    There is no sustainability in using ethanol for fuel. If not for the government subsidy (meaning you and me, whether we use ethanol blends or not, diesel fans) artifically holding the price down, it could not compete in the marketplace with gasoline or diesel. Eventually, the subsidy will have to be lifted. When that train wreck occurs, prices will suddenly and immediately go through the roof. And automakers as well as oil companies that participate in flex fuel offerings will be left holding products they can’t sell.

    Look at this another way: even if we could come up with a technological silver bullet to replace gasoline as a transportation fuel, do you really think we can say goodbye to hydrocarbons? Try to name anything in agriculture/food production, textiles, medicine (both medications and hospital supplies), durable goods, plastics, electronics, etc. etc. that does not rely on hydrocarbons? If you take away the demand for gasoline – a top level byproduct of hydrocarbon refining – it will still be produced with all of these other products and need to be dealt with. Currently we burn it in internal combustion engines. How will we dispose of it in a gas-free future?

  24. Krystyna says:

    My husband & I went through a chain saw, a gas weed eater & a push mower, before we realized that what was causing our small engines to mess up was the ethanol in the gas. That ethanol gas would do that was NOT publicized in the press nor by the government. It wasn’t until I was standing in line at a feed store & overheard a conversation between two old timers that I came to understand that ethanol gas would do that. How many people have had small engines destroyed by this type of fuel? Now they want us to trust their judgement about cars? And what really makes me sick is that this ethanol gas is mandated for use in places like Houston & Dallas. It’s all you folks can get! Thank God I moved to a small town where the gas stations proudly hang banners that state “ETHANOL FREE GAS”!

  25. txlady says:

    So let me get this straight:
    using 10% ethanol blend reduces fuel mileage by — 10%
    and we pay the same, so we are effectively getting 10% less mileage for the same cost.
    And we are burning the same amount of gasoline, because of the reduced fuel mileage with the ethanol blend.
    So where is the environmental justification for this?
    The use of ethanol blends is believed to be contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf. It has already wreaked havoc on the food supply, and food costs.
    And now the EPA wants to increase it to 15%? Which will decrease fuel mileage by 15%, so we will still be burning the same amount of fossil fuel, but paying even more for it than before?

    And when are we going to stop this farce?

  26. Crawdaddct says:

    Same prices with less fuel efficiency. Blended fuel does not work. Even Flex Fuel vehicles do not burn Ethanol efficiently. The only way to use ethanol as fuel is to go 100% and build the motors to only burn ethanol. An ethanol engin gets approximately the same miles per gallon as a gas engine. Of course countries that rely heavily on corn for food will again be rioting because they cant get food to eat, but at least we can drive our cars.

  27. Lacy Lynn says:

    Diesel make more sense than corn. It gets better mileage, makes the engine run forever, readily available, the new technology engines doesn’t pollute as much as corn, and it would keep our oil industry healthy. Europe mainly runs small diesel cars. So should America.

  28. Dave C says:

    Ethanol absorbs moisture. In any vented fuel system, especially in a vehicle that doesn’t burn through it’s fuel in a week, you end up with lots of water as the ethanol breaks down. raising the limit to 15% means your lawnmower, boat, farm truck or second car may not run after you let it sit for awhile. All for a fuel that does nothing to help fuel supplies and actually drives up food prices, especially for the poor. How stupid can you get.

  29. Dave C says:

    What in the heck are boaters supposed to do?? 10% was bad enough, do try want to kill the industry?

  30. Libby says:

    Let’s see – my mpg is down and my car runs like crapola with 10% — I’m thinking that 15% is not going to improve the situation. I guess it’s time to try to buy a new vehicle – mine is a 2006. What am I supposed to do – go from gas station to gas station and look for the label on the pump to see which is being sold – E10 or E15????? I’m sorry, that’s ridiculous!!!!

  31. Killin_Time says:

    I think I’m just going to get a Schwinn.

  32. OilPatch41 says:

    This is another example of the Obama administration destroying our country. His czars know nothing about anything except their agenda and issue regulations that will kill off our industry and jobs. It is a proven fact that it takes more energy to produce ethanol than it provides, these people have no idea about economics and are out to destroy us. It has been reported that Obama will rule by executive order if the Republicans get control of congress, that is another reason to IMPEACH OBAMA NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. jake38 says:

    The issue boils down to using corn for food or fuel, both processes rely on fossil fuels regardless of the outcome due to the use of fertilizers, electricity for the water pumps and the energy for farm equipment to plow the ground.

  34. Bob Johnson says:

    The Iowa farmers like it. It is funny how their opinion on the scuttlebutt surrounding ethanol is different than the opinion of this blog.

  35. Greg says:

    Lets see, when they instituted the 10% rule food prices went through the roof. The dollar is weakening driving oil prices up which puts further pressure on food prices. Combine this with the way we are printing money and it sounds like we are in for some heavy duty inflation.

  36. Hotpuppy says:

    Easy solution – buy a diesel powered vehicle. End of argument.

  37. Frank Bowers says:

    I have a big problem with the ethanol added to gas. It get about 32 miles a gallon with ture gas and only get 23-25 with the gas/ethanol. I am spending a lot more for the same amount of gas or miles. I know the government loves it as it increases the gas tax by about 20% for them to toss to their friends and IRA account.
    Frank Bowers

  38. Adler says:

    Does anyone even remember the rationale for having ethanol in gasoline in the 1st place. Think hard. It had nothing to do with George Bush as the idiot liberals keep whining.

    The EPA, yes these self same idiots, mandated oxygenators be added to gasoline in certain urban areas, like Houston, to help lower air pollution from gasoline fueled vehicles. Remember how that went? They mandated, ordered, decreed that we use gasoline with MBTE. Then low and behold, they discovered that MBTE allows gasoline to mix with water, especially groundwater, when the underground storage tanks had leaks.

    They then mandated, ordered, decreed that the gasoline suppliers were evildoers for poisoning water while complying with the EPAs edicts and regulations in the 1st place.

    So then the EPA mandated, ordered, decreed that MBTE be replaced by ethanol, a somehow “safer” oxygenator. Stupid EPA twits blithely ignored the fact that ethanol possesses the exact same chemical characteristics as MBTE that allows water and gasoline to mix. See MBTE required some evil chemical company to produce it, while ethanol was supposedly SOOO earth friendly, but really made by ADM in a facility that mysteriously resembles a chemical plant. See we’re not just talkin’ squeezin’s here.

    BTW, ethanol contains roughly 67% of the BTU capacity of octane. So a car that gets 30 mpg on regular gasoline with no ethanol will only get 29.01 mpg on gasoline with 10% ethanol (not too bad a trade for clean air). With the new 15% rule your original 30 MPG car will now only get 25.97 MPG – meaning you’ll be spending more for gasoline. This is a de facto tax on everyone, and what did O’BozO promise the middle class? All just to buy votes in the corn belt states for DEMs in fear of losing the election.

    Oh and you Greenie Weenies from CA, you’re E85 blend means your 30 MPG car only get a meager 21.59 MPG.

    Now does everyone see the folly of government over-regulation?

  39. Dennis in Austin says:

    Roger Wilco, I agree with almost all of what you said except that ethanol produces less horsepower. Ethanol actually produces more horsepower, about 5%. When I had an ethanol buring vehicle I could notice the boost in hp, but I would get about 10% less mpg using ethanol vs. gasoline.

  40. Zippy_Slug says:

    The notice on fuel pumps should be: “Contains 10% Food by Volume”

    It takes more energy to produce ethanol and releases less energy when consumed. Why government thinks this is a good idea is beyond me.. but I guess they’re real smart.. /sarc

    How’s about we defund the EPA and let the legislature regulate? That way at least someone is accountable for this insanity.

  41. Felicia says:

    Is this how Obama will stimulate the economy, since those of us who took good care of our older vehicles, will now watch them die with the addition of MORE ETHANOL! I can’t afford or want a new car. Thanks EPA, and Barack.

  42. Roger Willco says:

    Knock, Knock … Clank, Clank
    Ethanol, and any other alcolhol, sucks water vapor from the atmosphere into the gas tank of your car.
    Ethanol costs more and produces less horsepower.
    It is irrational to burn food.

  43. ModerateChuck says:

    Why don’t they just burn ethanol where they produce it, create electricity, and ship that around via power lines? That could possibly replace some petroleum products used to create electricity. Why bog us down in the need to switch so much installed equipment over to higher ethanol levels?

  44. ntangle says:

    So what is the rationale for an ’07 or newer req’t? Is that all the vehicle testing that’s been done?