One year ago, the EPA increased the allowable percentage of corn-based ethanol in gasoline blends from 10% to 15%, and at once angered auto manufacturers, gas station owners, and even environmentalists (article). Today’s cars and motorcycles have been designed to run on either pure gasoline or E10, and running them on E15 can destroy catalytic converters, will lower fuel efficiency and will void warranties.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the following last year:
Thorough testing has now shown that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks. Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America’s vehicles, this administration takes those steps.
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) isn’t convinced that enough has been done to study the effects of E15. He previously introduced a bill called H.R. 748 calling for prohibition of the EPA’s approving fuel with greater than 10% ethanol content to be used in certain vehicles, and on October 14th, 2011, he introduced bill H.R. 3199, which asks the EPA to seek independent scientific research of E15’s effect on cars, light trucks, and motorcycles. The following is a quote from his press release:
There are serious concerns that the EPA used only one Department of Energy test and rushed E15’s introduction into the market place. This test was limited in scope and ignored a plethora of evidence— albeit inconvenient evidence for the EPA— that shows E15 gasoline has a negative effect on engines. I introduced this legislation to ensure a decision of this magnitude will be vetted by independent scientific research, rather than political expediency.
There’s nothing inherently bad about E15, or any blend of gasoline or ethanol. The trouble comes when E15 is put into cars, boats, and motorcycles not designed to burn it. Ethanol burns hotter than gasoline, and this can cause particular trouble for catalytic converters and air-cooled motorcycles.
A recent article in an AMA magazine by Imre Szauter offered some tips on avoiding problems with E15 and echoed our concerns:
While the AMA applauds efforts to make our nation more eneergy efficient, the problem is that E15 burns hotter than gasoline that contains a lesser amount of ethanol. In engines not designed to dissipate that extra heat, damage in the form of premature wear can result. Although this is a concern in all motorcycles, it’s particularly problematic for air-cooled engines found in many bikes.
We applaud Congressman Sensenbrenner’s sensible efforts and urge you to write your representative today and express your support of H.R. 3199.