National debate stirs on ethanol-blended gasolines

Senior Editor

So you drive into the service station, pull up to the pump, hand the attendant cash or a credit card, and choose of the blend of fuel you wish to have put put into your car’s tank.
What button you have pushed will depend, in some degree, on what year your car was manufactured.
Do you want 10-percent ethanol, 15-percent ethanol? How about 25-percent ethanol, or 30 percent, or 40 percent?
Or how about no ethanol at all?
We appear to be coming to the age of the blend pump.
And there is far from universal applause for that power-packed innovation of the 21st century.
President Barack Obama, the EPA and Congress — and generally speaking, many of the nation’s farmers — buy into the new pump. It is argued that the blend pumps will continue to deplete the country’s reliance on foreign oil.
An organization known as the Outdoor Institute of America, an international trade association representing more than 80 engine and equipment manufacturers worldwide in the utility, forestry, landscape, and lawn and garden industry, calls the blend pump concept “dangerous.”
The debate sharpened when Congress approved an elevation from 10 to 15 percent for fuel in automobiles manufactured after the year 2000.
Lynne Hoot, executive director of the Maryland Grain Producers Association — and that grain includes corn — had these comments:
“MGPA is extremely pleased that EPA has given final approval to the use of E15 in vehicles year 2000 and newer.”
“In reality, this will provide an opportunity for drivers of Flexible Fuel Vehicles and vehicles built after 2000 to have another fuel option. Dispensers will be clearly marked that the fuel is not approved for use in older vehicles or marine and small engines.
“We anticipate that the market for E15 will develop with the use of blended pumps where consumers will get to select their required blend. 
“E85 for flexible fuel vehicles, E15 for newer vehicles and E10 or without ethanol for everyone else. These blender pumps will also see the development for E20 and E30 for FFVs.”
Hoot said that Congress passed the renewable fuel standard to produce up to 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. 
“We need to establish a market for higher blend fuels so we can meet this goal. Today ethanol provides 25 percent of the domestically produced fuel for gasoline engines.  Domestic gasoline production is 39 billion gallons and ethanol is 13 billion gallons per year.
“I don’t think people understand the progress that ethanol has made today in reducing our dependence of foreign oil.”
Hoot noted that for the Chesapeake Bay region, “we hope that barley-based ethanol will be classified as an advanced fuel under the (Renewable Fuel Standard) so a buyer can be found for the Hopewell, Va. ethanol plant. This will encourage greater planting of barley as a small grains cover crop and develop a Mid-Atlantic domestic, renewable clean burning fuel.”
The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute took immediate exception, warning that the EPA’s E15 ruling is “dangerous.”
The institute said that “the government’s test results … show E15 is harmful to outdoor power equipment, boats and marine engines and other non-road engine products.
“The fuel used for automobiles and other engine products would have to be divided, substantially increasing the risk for misfueling, significant engine damage and consumer hazard.”
Last September, members of Engine Products Group (OPEI, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Global Automakers) filed a formal legal challenge to EPA’s E15 partial waiver decision.
The EPG asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the E15 waiver decision. The decision on this matter is expected to be issued at any time by the court.
The EPA proposes to mark the blend pumps with a 3 inch by 3 inch label. “It’s frighteningly inadequate,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.
Kiser said that EPA’s prior experience with the introduction of new fuels shows that labeling alone is insufficient to prevent misfueling.
“As the EPA led the transition to unleaded fuels, the agency reported a misfueling rate of nearly 15 percent almost 10 years after the introduction of unleaded gasoline, and even with a physical barrier at the pumps,” he said.