E15 Ethanol Controversy: No Signs Of Moderating Any Time Soon

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Corn Ethanol Pump

Corn Ethanol Pump

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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

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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.

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