E15 Ethanol Controversy: No Signs Of Moderating Any Time Soon

Follow John

Corn Ethanol Pump

Corn Ethanol Pump

Enlarge Photo

Debate over the slow rollout and potentially damaging effects of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol blended in just continues to roll on.

The latest to pile on are members of the Science Committee in the House of Representatives, which held a hearing Tuesday on the progress of EPA efforts to roll out E15.

As reported in The Detroit News, Representative Chris Stewart [R-UT] slammed the EPA for a "haphazard transition" toward more widespread E15 availability.

Stewart said the EPA hadn't handled the decision to approve E15 correctly, and that the agency's efforts had been marked by "regulatory confusion, bungled implementation, and a lack of consumer education."

Predictably, groups advocating for greater ethanol use in turn slammed the hearings as grandstanding.

Advocacy group Fuels America released a statement saying, "E15 is the most tested fuel, ever, and the auto industry failed to provide a single example of problems with drivability during the DOE's testing process."

While some new cars are now built to accept E15 blends--our recent 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid said right on its gas cap that blends up to E15 could be used--not all of them are.

Chrysler, for one, has not modified its 2013 model cars to accept E15, and it's not alone.

But with the powerful AAA coming out forcefully against E15 last December, the debate looks likely to rage on.

Drivers are likely confused, and it's debatable whether Congressional hearings improve matters at all.

Meanwhile, you likely don't have to worry about E15 for a while to come.

Proposed EPA E15 gasoline pump warning label for ethanol content

Proposed EPA E15 gasoline pump warning label for ethanol content

Enlarge Photo

At the moment, however, a handful of gas stations in agricultural Midwestern states--including Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska--are selling the fuel.

Virtually all domestic ethanol is refined from corn, the least efficient way to produce the alcohol fuel.

For several years now, the U.S. industry has failed to produce enough cellulosic ethanol to comply with requirements in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which mandates that increasing volumes of ethanol be incorporated into U.S. vehicle fuel.

In January, the cellulosic mandate was tossed out by a court, which called it a "wish" rather than sound public policy.


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Us

Comments (17)
  1. NO, I would not use E15. E10 (and E85) is enough, this is a dead end road, they need to stop. My acura isn't designed for it. More "E"=worse MPG. I drive new Toyotas part time and, for at least a year or so, they have put a NO E15 symbol on their gas caps. I don't know of any toyota except very few vehicles with FlexFuel engines that are designed to take E85 that can also take E15.

    All of this is a waste. A great big waste. We need to put all R&D monies into advancing battery technology for ALL-electric vehicles. It is the only one that will not only gives us zero emissions, but lower operating costs, and the freedom to charge it at home and never go to the gas station again. This is the best and fastest way to break our oil addiction.

  2. ellulosic ethanol comes from stuff we throw away.

    Bloomberg: Cellulosic Biofuel to Surge in 2013 as First Plants Open
    "fuel made from crop waste, wood chips, household trash and other non-food organic sources will reach 9.6 million gallons in 2013, up from less than 500,000 gallons in 2012"

  3. Dave cellulosic ethanol sounds good, since 2008 very little has been produced with millions invested in plants, the oil industries have had to pay penalties because its use is mandated even though it hardly exist. It's a good example of how well planned out this ethanol mandate was.

  4. DuPont Builds Giant Cellulosic Ethanol Biorefinery in Iowa
    "the facility will produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year from corn stover residues, a feedstock composed of corn stalks and leaves. The stover will be collected from farms in a 30 mile radius"

  5. Corn ethanol has done very little to cut our usage of oil, sugar cane is one unit of energy to produce to eight units out, corn ethanol is nearly one to one. It creates jobs for farmers but hurts the economy in raised food prices. Natural gas would reduce foreign oil usage at a much faster rate, cheaper, and way cleaner burning. This also would free up the corn crop to be used for food. Simply put remove the mandates and get behind the natural gas movement.

  6. "Corn ethanol has done very little to cut our usage of oil"...E10 cuts oil consumption with 10% and E15 would add another 5% to that. Much more than plug-in vehicles could achieve in a long time to come. There is a reason the oil industry is in an all out war on ethanol while subversion of plug-ins seems more moderate or at least less obvious.

    CNG has disadvantages that are somewhat similar to plug ins like slow refilling, low energy density storage devises so you need to go through the bothersome refill process often and substantial extra cost.

    If you fear E15 is bad for your engine: the high burning temperature of NG is not going to do your engine much good either.

  7. @Chris: The point, though, is that any CNG vehicle will have been engineered to handle those high combustion temperatures. The concern over E15 is that it could be used in a vehicle that was NOT engineered for it, e.g. pretty much any pre-2012 car and quite a few brand-new ones today.

  8. @ John Voelcker: the story on how bad E15 is for older cars seems to vary depending on the agenda of those paying for the research.

    It's really hard to establish independent facts when billions are at stake for both the oil industry and the ethanol industry. The fact that nobody cares about ethanol (look at the view count of this and any other ethanol related story) yet in this thread 2 people bothered to register as commenter to support the sort of views spread by the anti ethanol lobby to me is another indication that it's unwise to believe everything that is put out there at face value.

  9. Chris why would auto makers care what fuel went in their cars as long as it did not stress their warranties? It's well documented how ethanol is hard on motors not designed for it. Just look at the claims made by the corn lobbyist that you know are not true. If this is good product remove the mandates, people will make the right choice.

  10. @ Chuck Langer:

    There is 2 things I know for sure in this whole debate: one is that there is a war going on against ethanol and the other one is that the first casualty of war is always the truth.

  11. Chris I assume your not taking into consideration the energy used to make it or the energy it delivers. 10% ethanol delivers less than 7% energy. The amount of energy used to make it is almost equal to the amount it makes. The idea that people would think its 100% is crazy. Natural gas on the other hand is 100% towards foreign oil dependency. Our food and water supply are important resources maintained.

  12. Here's a good quote from Elon Musk:
    "I read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and it highlighted an important point, which is that a lot of times the question is harder than the answer. And if you can properly phrase the question, then the answer is the easy part."

    OK, so here are 3 questions:

    Q: Can corn ethanol completely replace gasoline, with no affect on food supply?
    A: No.

    Q: Can cellulosic ethanol completely replace gasoline, with no affect on food supply?
    A: No.

    Q: Can EVs with range extenders running on cellulosic ethanol completely replace gasoline, with no affect on food supply?
    A: Yes.

    People who bash ethanol only consider the first 2 questions. They don't consider that ethanol may be a viable part of a broader solution.

  13. Dave without the mandates at what extent would ethanol exist. E10 is a smaller version of E85. Go to fueleconomy.gov and do a cost comparison of what it cost to operate a flex vehicle on gas verses E85, 30-40% more on E85. In the process we are using more energy with little or no gain, driving up food cost, actually hurting the livestock and dairy industries, livestock levels are the lowest since 1958 and decreased usage of dairy products are also being reported. Remove the mandates and let it stand on its own.

  14. "Q: Can corn ethanol completely replace gasoline, with no affect on food supply?"

    A: That depends on one's definition of corn food supply.

    "Q: Can corn ethanol completely replace gasoline, with no affect on food supply?
    A: No."

    Here is a neutral-based question:

    Q: Is there any crop, or combination(s) thereof, to produce ethanol, completely replacing gasoline, with no affect on food supply?

    A: Yes.


  15. @Chuck Langer

    "Dave without the mandates at what extent would ethanol exist."

    If you are going to use mandates/rulings/judgements as your determinant, then remove all of them going back to the beginning (1776) or 100 years/1900 BCE and the effects thereof. Might as well see where you stand now with things in their proper perspective.


  16. Chris I have family members that are farmers, yet I search for the truth on this mater. The corn lobbyist have more to gain or lose than the average consumer, we are not represented in Washington with the amounts of money the corn lobbyist have. We only hope are congressmen do the right thing, who we are losing faith in. If this is such a sure thing explain the mandates.

  17. Here is a good site, not supported by the oil or ethanol money, on the facts and fiction of ethanol. http://www.farmecon.com by Dr. Thomas E. Elam.

    We don't need to, and with the drought and population growth we shouldn't use farm land to grow fuel. There are better options, for energy like,Safe, new, nuclear- http://www.terrapower.com, that Bill Gates promotes, and could be tied with http://www.airfuelsynthesis.com/ and also produce carbon free energy for electric cars.
    Also, /www.proterro.com/ that makes the sucrose instead of extracting it, lowering the cost of sugar for the economical and scalable production of biofuels.
    We really should support and fast track these options for a cleaner, healthier planet, and for the best future for

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.