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Ethanol Decision Sparks Controversy - Backers and Critics Find Fault - Corn Belt Pandering
October 15, 2010

Posted by David Lungren

"Ethanol Decision Sparks Controversy" - "Backers and Critics Find Fault" - "Corn Belt Pandering"

Inhofe EPW News Roundup

LA Times: EPA's Ethanol Decision Sparks Controversy  - But there are many out there who don't see much "green" in ethanol that comes from corn. They note that burning E-15, as the new mix is called, can increase emission of some pollutants. And it can convert land better used for carbon absorption into industrialized agriculture, which consumes fossil fuels. Among the first to blast EPA was a coalition of agricultural interests, including the American Meat Institute; the Grocery Manufacturers Assn.; the National Council of Chain Restaurants; the National Chicken Council; the American Frozen Food Institute; the American Bakers Assn.; the National Meat Assn. and the National Turkey Federation: E15 - which would be a 50 percent increase from the currently permitted level of 10 percent ethanol in gasoline - will result in dramatic increases in the portion of the U.S. corn crop used to make fuel rather than food and, when fully implemented, could result in more than 40 percent of the nation's corn crop being diverted to ethanol production. The corn ethanol industry has received over $30 billion in federal subsidies over the last three decades.

The Hill: Ethanol Backers and Critics Find Fault with EPA E-15 Decision  - Supporters and critics of expanded ethanol use both found fault with the Environmental Protection Agency's decision Wednesday to allow for a higher ethanol blend in gasoline for vehicles as old as model year 2007, while punting for now on allowing it for older vehicles. Critics and skeptics of increasing the ethanol blend in gasoline weighed in as well. The National Automobile Dealers Association issued a statement citing concern about the "backward compatibility" of the new E-15 blend, or "the degree to which E-15 might damage older cars and trucks when it is mistakenly pumped into them." "The main issue for dealers and their service departments is the possibility of misdiagnosis and repair of vehicles resulting from the use of the wrong fuel," the group added in its statement.

Politico: Ethanol Decision Seen as Corn Belt Pandering - Less than three weeks before Election Day, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a long-awaited decision to allow 15 percent of the corn-based fuel in gasoline in new cars - a major boost from the current 10 percent.  The timing of the announcement seems aimed at shoring up Democratic support in Midwestern states that President Obama carried in 2008, such as Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, but where some of his fellow Democrats are now scrambling.  "This can be seen as one of a series of steps leading up to an important election that could have some benefit for the administration or administration-supported candidates in a few key states or districts," said Barry Rabe, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan.

Reuters: U.S. Allows More Ethanol in Gasoline for Newer Cars -  But the higher blends are unlikely to be quickly adopted by gasoline retailers. "EPA's unwise and premature decision ... may be good politics in Corn Belt states on the eve of the midterm elections," a refiner trade group said. "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 group added. Gas station owners are concerned about the liabilities of selling the fuel because automakers say the higher blends may rot fuel lines and damage engines over time.

E&E News: EPA Edges into 15% Ethanol Blend with New Cars  - EPA approved the use of 15 percent ethanol in newer model vehicles yesterday, drawing fire from unlikely bedfellows, including some environmental groups and the auto industry, which called the decision "premature." ...Potential confusion at the pump about which sources can use the E15 blend and which may not will be on the minds of retailers weighing whether or not to provide the higher blend, said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores. Those stores sell about 80 percent of the nation's gasoline, he said. If older vehicles fuel up with E15, it could potentially corrode their engines -- and pump owners may be held responsible for that misfueling, Lenard said.

USA Today: Ethanol Content of Gasoline Can Be 15%, up from 10% Now  - In a move that triggered immediate, furious controversy, the government said Wednesday that gasoline now may contain up to 15% ethanol - grain alcohol, usually from corn in the U.S. - instead of just 10%. Opponents also predict more confusion and grumbling at gas pumps than when the U.S. switched to unleaded gasoline in the 1970s. Then, different-sized pump nozzles and gas tank filler necks minimized accidentally using the wrong fuel. Now, different blends will come out of similar pumps and nozzles, though EPA says E15 pumps must have special signs. Putting E10 into cars OK for E15 won't matter. Putting E15 in older cars might. "Ethanol is corrosive to rubber products and some plastics. The higher you push (ethanol) concentration, the greater the chance, especially on older cars, you'll have fuel leaks," and possible fires, says David Champion, head of auto testing at Consumer Reports magazine.

NYT: A Bit More Ethanol in the Gas Tank  - A more practical barrier to widespread adoption of E15 are the gas stations that would sell it. Even if a station has enough pumps to offer a new grade of fuel, most have too few underground tanks, experts say.  Stations that sell regular, midgrade and premium fuel typically do it with one tank of regular and one of premium; the pump blends the two for midgrade. For them, going to E15 would mean giving up sales of premium, said Prentiss E. Searles, the marketing issues manager at the American Petroleum Institute, the trade group for the oil industry.  "If you've got a limited number of vehicles that can use E15, it doesn't make a lot of sense," Mr. Searles said.

NYT: Green Blog : Will the New Gasohol Recipe Sell?   - Measured by volume, ethanol is cheaper than gasoline, so a blend that is 15 percent ethanol will have a lower cost per gallon than a blend that is at the current standard, 10 percent.  But in a quirk of fuel production, it often turns out to be more expensive to use. Ethanol has only about two-thirds as much energy per gallon as gasoline, so it has to sell for about one-third less than gasoline before it is equal in price per mile.  A retailer who wanted to sell E15 could install another tank to store the inventory at a cost often running over $100,000.

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