Thanks to growing environmental concerns and economic forces, 97% of fuel currently pumped in the U.S. is up to 10% ethanol. For a few reasons, ethanol in gas is a hot-button issue for some folks; search for an article on the topic and your chances of finding one that balances both sides of the aisle are pretty slim. But, while many drivers are familiar with Flex Fuel vehicles, which run on a fuel made of 85% ethanol, fewer realize that the gasoline they’re already putting in their cars is partially made from corn.
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.