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Debates Over Ethanol Fuel Hit a Boiling Point

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On: Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 10:37AM | By: Elizabeth Puckett

Debates Over Ethanol Fuel Hit a Boiling Point

The debate over ethanol gas blends seems to be never ending. On one hand, it is cheaper and cleaner, but opponents are quick to point out that it could damage older model cars as well as motorcycles. Where does that leave the debate? At this point, it's at a roaring boil as both sides of the discussion clash. Now throw in a new higher ethanol content blend.

Ethanol is an alternative, alcohol-based fuel which is distilled from plants—mainly corn and sugar. Most gasoline products offered at any common gas station are a blend which includes a certain amount of ethanol. Currently, the blend of ethanol in gasoline is 10%, known as E10.

The high ethanol blend in question is known as E15, which is 15% ethanol—a huge rise from the current mixture. This high ethanol blend is sold at only a handful of gas stations in the country—but if the Obama administration gets its way, it could be the new standard. A new ruling allows the sale of higher blends at more stations around the nation.

Earlier in the week, the Supreme Court threw out a challenge by the American Petroleum Institute to block sales of the E15 mixture. This institute, by the way, is the oil industry’s primary lobbying organization. The current federal appeals court ruling has been left in place and challengesby the oil industry groups have been shut down.

This seems to represent the final word on the issue on the behalf of the court system, and supporters are urging oil companies to start work on the biofuel blend and stop trying to contend with the ruling. Supporters of the new blend have long stood by the notion that the increase of ethanol in our gas will give consumers more choice and provide savings at the pump.

Alternative fuel advocates support the law to allow E15 into a larger marketplace, which they say will help bring over 400,000 jobs to the country, many of which will be in struggling rural economies. They also note that this move will lower imports of foreign oil by 30%. Additionally, the blend is set to reduce dangerous carbon dioxide emissions.

While oil companies certainly have their own agenda as they stand to lose money on the new blend, they also argue that it’s not a good product for consumers. The API points out that E15 can be dangerous when used in older model vehicles. They cite engine problems discovered during a private study they conducted on the blend. Ethanol industry professionals responded to this study, claiming that there have been no documented cases of engine issues because of a high ethanol blend.

The EPA has told Congress that it believes the E15 blend is safe for cars built since 2001. Since the ruling is not to mandate the use of E15 in all vehicles, education for the consumer may eliminate any mechanical issue risks the oil industry seems so concerned about.


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