Vortex Tools looks at AAA and car companies’ concerns over E15 fuel.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) has come out against E15 fuel as it could damage your car engine if your car model is older than 2012. So what is E15 and how does it differ from what we currently have?
Clearly this is an older pic (those gas prices are low — even for now)
E15 is a 15% ethanol, 85% gasoline blend and can be used in your car or truck, but not in all those off-road vehicles, lawnmowers and chainsaws you left lying around. (This is not to be confused with E85: an 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline blend that is for use in flex-fuel vehicles.) Although E15 has only been allowed for use since 2010, E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) has been around for 30+ years and now makes up 90% of the U.S. gasoline market. Approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), E15 is only sold at 10 gas stations in Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska, but obviously the ethanol market hopes this will grow.
Alongside AAA, car manufacturers disagree (at least for now). Near the end of 2012, five car companies—BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen—stated they would not cover any E15-related damage claim. Here in early 2013, it’s now up to 10 (including Ford, Honda and Mercedes-Benz). Worse than that, some of those car companies have now stated that E15 will void your warranty.
In a recent interview, Lauren Fix “The Car Coach” stated, “The problem is: there wasn’t a lot of testing done.”
Well, that’s actually not true. E15 is the most tested fuel in EPA history and they’ve stated that there’s no difference between E10 and E15. According to Fix, however, “There’s all kinds of damage to emissions systems, fuel systems, and engines.” She also notes that E15 is corrosive to gaskets.
Along with AAA and several car companies, this is not a unique opinion. So if E15 was tested extensively by the EPA, how did they miss this?
According to AAA, the EPA’s “research focused primarily on exhaust emissions and associated components such as catalytic converters. While this research was consistent with the EPA’s mission, it never fully examined whether E15 might damage engines and fuel systems.”
This doesn’t mean the EPA didn’t do their job. It means that E15 hasn’t been around long enough for the major flaws to start showing up (that this many flaws have shown up this early is alarming). It’s the same reason I don’t own a hybrid car – there isn’t enough data on the true cost of maintenance over the car’s lifespan yet.
AAA wants to make it clear they’re not opposed to ethanol though: “AAA believes that ethanol-blended fuels have the potential to save Americans money and reduce the nation’s dependency on fossil fuels. The problem is that available research, including the EPA’s exhaust emissions tests, is not sufficient evidence that E15 is safe to use in most vehicles.”
I can see them wanting to take the neutral approach, but I’ll state that there are plenty of problems with ethanol. Although it’s better for the environment than gasoline, at least when it comes to how mainstream cars are currently made, ethanol is not as fuel-efficient, so even if you pay the same price at the pump, you’re filling up more, and this is before you get into damaged engines and voided warranties…
Additionally, corn ethanol is not nearly as efficient as other ethanol processes (like Brazil’s sugar ethanol), and the standard for U.S. corn ethanol production remains above what can actually be created. There are also issues with how subsidies shape the industry, as well as how few places can use the extensive amount of water used to create corn ethanol.
Finally, corn ethanol detractors have their own share of misinformation. The oft-cited ‘food or fuel’ debate (basically: food costs more because we’re using our crop spaces for ethanol) is inaccurate, as the two don’t directly compete. If corn ethanol is to blame for rising fuel prices, it’s way, way behind a lot of the other contributing factors.
Here’s what we do know: E15 could well be the future of cars, but it’s too harmful and unproven in the present. The fact that it’s sold without these warnings (even minimally) is unfair to car owners who don’t know any better. Thus far, car companies seem unwilling to move towards E15 – especially as it forces them to make parts to deal with the corrosive nature of ethanol – but you know how a government mandate can change things.
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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:
-SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).
-Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).
-Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).
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