The politics of corn run deep in this country, as the highly subsidized crop is used for both food and fuel.
Ethanol, the corn-derived alcohol that is sold at gas stations around the country in E10, E15 or E85 fuel, is often cheaper than straight gasoline. Flex-fuel vehicles can run on the E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline) fuel, while the EPA has approved E10 and E15 fuels for all 2001 and newer vehicles.
That’s where the controversy begins, as some accuse the EPA of approving E15 before testing on its compatibility with modern fuel systems was complete. Most automakers don’t recommend its use, even going so far as to say using E15 will void the vehicle’s warranty.
Is E15 safe to use, or will it cause serious damage?
Depends on who you ask.
The American Petroleum Institute has completed testing on E15 and has some scathing things to say. In a press release to the media, API says:
The additional E15 testing, completed this month, has identified an elevated incidence of fuel pump failures, fuel system component swelling, and impairment of fuel measurement systems in some of the vehicles tested. E15 could cause erratic and misleading fuel gauge readings or cause faulty check engine light illuminations. It also could cause critical components to break and stop fuel flow to the engine. Failure of these components could result in breakdowns that leave consumers stranded on busy roads and highways.
Keep in mind this comes from the American *Petroleum* Institute, which has a vested interest in the use of, you know, petroleum. Still, its findings are enough to question the EPA’s approval of E15.
Ask the Renewable Fuels Association, though, and you’ll be told that moving from E10 to E15 will not harm vehicles newer than 1994, according to a study commissioned by the organization. The RFA says:
This analysis provides conclusive evidence for the EPA that there is no reason to limit the availability of E15 to newer vehicles only. This analysis together with affirmative results in reports from the Department of Energy and other academic and private testing institutions show that there are no significant issues with the use of E15 in virtually all vehicles on the road today.
Right. Someone here isn’t telling the truth. Is it the API, nervous about a growing supply of petroleum and the use of renewable fuels, or is it the RFA, doing what it can to keep a high dollar value on corn grown in the U.S.?
It’s up to you and me, the American public, to decide. I happen to believe corn should be used for food and will avoid ethanol mixes at the pump. I’ll opt instead for high-octane pure gasoline, just as my automaker recommends.
Will you, or do you already, use E15 fuel in your vehicle?