Directions: Are You Ready for the Most Tested Fuel in History?
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Directions: Are You Ready for the Most Tested Fuel in History?

In mid-August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to grant a partial waiver for 15% ethanol (E15) content in gasoline for 2001 and newer model year cars and light trucks.

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On June 8, the U.S. EPA gave final approval for the sale and use of E15 ethanol blends. Following that decision, trade organizations from the above-mentioned industries filed a lawsuit to halt the sale of E15.

A statement from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers — the trade group that represents the nation’s Big Three automakers, as well as Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and other import manufacturers — said the court’s ruling was a disappointment.

“Our greatest concern continues to be our customers. It is critical that consumers have a
positive experience with renewable fuels,” the alliance said. “It is not in the longer term interest of consumers, the government and all parties involved to discover after the fact that equipment or performance problems are occurring because a new fuel was rushed into the national marketplace.”

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The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) also shared the same sentiment, saying E15 fuel causes corrosion with incompatible automotive parts.

“Today’s decision is disappointing for the millions of motorists who own older cars or those with high-performance specialty parts,” said Steve McDonald, SEMA’s vice president, government affairs. “These vehicles and parts are threatened with destruction by E15’s chemical properties.  The EPA acknowledged the threat but, beyond minimal labeling requirements, took no additional steps to ensure that incompatible vehicles and engines were not misfueled with E15.”

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SEMA said it has not given up, reporting that it continues to seek passage of federal legislation (HR 3199) that would prevent the EPA from introducing E15 into the marketplace until the National Academies has conducted a study on how gasoline blended with 15 to 20% ethanol impacts gas-powered vehicles.  The analysis would consider a variety of issues including tailpipe emissions, materials compatibility and fuel efficiency. The bill has been approved by the U.S. House Science Committee and is pending on the House floor.

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) was a bit harsher in its assessment of the ruling. “The Court’s ruling upholds EPA’s irresponsible decision that puts consumers at risk,” said AFPM president Charles Drevna. “Vehicle testing has confirmed that E15 damages certain engines. In fact, vehicle manufacturers have begun to include warnings on their gas caps that E15 could void vehicle warranties. This decision will harm every American who owns a car, truck or small engine equipment.”

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The court’s ruling, however, was a vindication for the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE). ACE executive director Brian Jennings praised the court’s decision, calling it a huge win for consumers.

“This is great news for consumers looking for more affordable options when filling up at the pump. This ruling tells the public that EPA’s decision to permit E15 as an option wasn’t a rush to judgment and that this fuel is safe,” Jennings said.

“We’ve been saying for years that the ethanol industry did everything the right way when we worked on getting E15 legally approved. The EPA underwent an exhaustive process in testing the fuel and making sure it would be compatible in vehicles with a model year of 2001 and newer before it was legal for public sale. Simply put, E15 has been the most tested fuel in history and that it is safe and can be used in the vehicles it is intended for,” Jennings said. 

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