Monday, December 20, 2010

EPA Approves Use of E15 For Cars Made After 2007

On October 13, the Environmental Protection Agency approved a waiver request from the ethanol industry to allow ethanol content in a gallon of gas to climb from today's gas-pump blend of 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent. The waiver to the Clean Air Act to permit E15 fuel applies only to cars and light trucks made since model year 2007.

EPA bases its approval of the waiver request on testing that has shown that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks. The waiver covers about one-fifth of the vehicles on the road. The agency is waiting for further engine emission tests by the Energy Department before deciding whether to extend approval of E15 for cars built since 2001. EPA is not advocating E15 but simply responding to a waiver request under the clean-air statute.

If the agency extends the waiver back to model-year-2001 vehicles, E15 would be approved in more than half the automobiles in the country. A push to add another 50 percent to the ethanol content of some automobile fuel has automakers worried that it could damage vehicles.  Power-equipment and boat manufacturers are complaining that it could damage their products too. These critics say a 15 percent ethanol blend would shorten engine life more and make equipment prone to fuel leaks and fire hazards( e.g., snowblowers, chain saws and mowers). Apart from causing engines to run hotter, ethanol fuel eats away at rubber components

Equipment makers are also worried that the ethanol, which absorbs water, will make the fuel unstable and destructive to engines when seasonable equipment is stored for months on end.
For gas station owners, the waiver has raised its own set of questions and concerns. Tanks, pipes and pumps must be listed by Underwriters Laboratories, an independent product-safety testing organization, for E15 to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, as well as contractual obligations with insurers and others. The bigger issue is the pipes from the tanks to the dispensers and the materials used to connect them, the gaskets, glues and seals.

Congress is considering a bill that would shield gas retailers from liability suits for mis-fueled engines. (Wash Post, 12/20/2010)

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