Since Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 as a means to “combat our growing energy problems” and “reduce our independence on oil”, the debate over how safe ethanol additives really are has raged on.
As you may know, the Act lead the introduction of E10 (gasoline with 10% ethanol), which vehicle owners have been claiming causes serious damage to engines, such as damaged catalytic converters, improper combustion, and component deterioration.
While proponents of ethanol claim that it is a cleaner burning, higher octane fuel source that is renewable, opponents feel that the mixture of gasoline and ethanol is causing more problems than it is solving. This week marks a victory for the latter camp, as the EPA has now publicly confirmed that ethanol does cause serious damage the engines.
The announcement comes in the form of a new rule proposal set forth by the Federal Trade Commission which would require a label on gas pumps supplying high ethanol content blends such as E15.
According to the EPA, ethanol impacts motor vehicles in two primary ways. First … ethanol leans the [air/fuel] ratio (increases the proportion of oxygen relative to hydrocarbons) which can lead to increased exhaust gas temperatures and potentially increase incremental deterioration of emission control hardware and performance over time, possibly causing catalyst failure.
Second, ethanol can cause materials compatibility issues, which may lead to other component failures. What material compatibility issues would they be referring to? Ethanol has been known to wreak havoc on fuel systems, deteriorating plastic and silicone components such as hoses, fuel pumps and filters, gas tanks, and fuel injectors.
Among its other talents, ethanol also has the ability to etch aluminum and magnesium, as well as absorb moisture from the air, allowing a water/alcohol mixture in the fuel tank.
The American Motorcycle Association has been actively fighting the distribution of E15 and applauds the EPA’s decision to reassess the further distribution of E15.
AMA Vice President for Government Relations, Wayne Allard said “now the EPA acknowledges that ethanol itself is harmful to emissions hardware and other components on all motor vehicles. It is time for the federal government to pause, take a hard look at this product and change its entire approach to ethanol in fuels.”
While this is a step in the right direction to curb the use of E15, there are still many vehicles, both on and off-road, using E10 which, while not as dangerous, is still causing problems.
Any updates or changes made to EPA legislation can be found on their Renewable Fuels Regulations and Standards webpage.