The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association joined with the International Liquid Terminals Association and the Western States Petroleum Association to file a law suit intended to overturn a recent regulatory overreach by the Obama Administration.
The E15 Proposal and Granted Waiver
In March of 2009, Growth Energy and several other alternative fuels organizations petitioned the EPA to have E15 introduced for use in vehicles not specifically modified to deal with the caustic nature of ethyl alcohol (ethanol). In October, the Environmental Protection Agency bowed to the corn-to-fuel lobby and granted a partial waiver allowing for the use of E15 (15%) ethanol fuels in all vehicles newer than 2007.
Misfueling, the accidental fueling of a vehicle with the incorrect fuel, is a serious concern. The cost to repair a fuel system once ethanol has done its damage is considerable. The EPA web site mentions that they are working on a way to reduce misfueling, but they aren’t holding this waiver until that solution is drawn up.
..the EPA is concurrently issuing a proposed rule with the express purpose of reducing the potential for misfueling of E15 into vehicles, engines, and products for which it is not approved. If finalized, this rule will satisfy the misfueling mitigation conditions of today’s partial waiver.
The Next Step for the EPA is Older Vehicles
The EPA waiver also discusses 2001-2006 vehicles.
EPA is deferring a decision on MY2001-2006 light-duty motor vehicles. DOE is in the process of conducting additional catalyst durability testing that will provide data regarding MY2001-2006 motor vehicles. The DOE testing is scheduled to be completed by the end of November 2010. EPA will make the DOE test results available to the public and consider the results and other available data and information in making a determination on E15 for use in those model year motor vehicles.
Problems With Ethanol 15 and higher
Only catalyst durability testing? That will only prove whether or not the fuel is stable. What about engine durability testing? While ethanol’s instability is certainly a concern, fuel system components made for gasoline do not react well with corn-alcohol (ethanol). A 50% increase in the amount of ethanol in fuels will cause failure of fuel hosing, pumps, seals and possibly injection/carbeuration. An article at Hagerty.com relays the problem that ethanol presents to older vehicles:
- Corrosion caused by contact between two dissimilar metals when the metals are in contact with an electrolyte, like ethanol. It looks like this.
- Rubber components like fuel hoses, carburetor seals and gaskets, and fuel pump seals may be hardened, dissolved or distorted by contact with ethanol. This may lead to fuel leaks.
- Ethanol holds water very readily and can expose fuel system components and steel gas tanks to rust. This is especially prevalent in boats.
- Even low concentrations of ethanol have been shown to damage fiberglass fuel tanks. Ethanol dissolves the lining of fiberglass fuel tanks, often depositing a dark “sludge” inside marine engines causing costly damage. Eventually, fiberglass tanks dissolve until they fail, leaking fuel.
- Metal parts, such as in-tank fuel pumps and carburetor floats, may be subject to pitting, rust or corrosion when in contact with ethanol blends.
The only way to prevent this damage is to replace fuel system components with ethanol-safe parts or buy a newer vehicle with the flex-fuel designation. Either way, Americans will be yet again saddled with the cost of the progressive agenda.
Having to upgrade your fuel system or buy a new car are expensive enough, but even according to the government site FuelEconomy.gov it’s evident that higher ethanol content will also have you paying even more for a gallon of fuel.
FFVs experience no loss in performance when operating on E85. However, since ethanol contains less energy per volume than gasoline, FFVs typically get about 25-30% fewer miles per gallon when fueled with E85.
So your 30 mpg turns to 20-23mpg on E85. Perhaps you only lose 3-4mpg with E15, but that’s after you just spent money to upgrade your fuel system or the entire car. Upgrade costs, lower mileage, and it will further increase the price pressure on corn as more corn fields are turned into fuel. That means the less-efficient, fuel-system destroying fuel will also cost more.
The Suit Against the EPA
It would be easy to look at the petroleum industry’s suit as a special interest protecting their profits. If that’s the position taken than one must also agree that Green Growth and tons of other corn-to-fuel businesses lobbied the EPA to put this waiver in place. It’s one fuel provider against another.
The real concern should be how the waiver was obtained. At least the petroleum industry lawyers are attacking the proper problem, regulatory overreach. While those involved in the suit will file written arguments in coming weeks, they had this much to say in a January 3rd press release:
NPRA and the other organizations today filed a petition asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review and overturn the EPA decision, contending EPA violated the Clean Air Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
The lawsuit by the groups will argue that EPA does not have authority under the Clean Air Act to approve a partial waiver that allows the use of E15 in some engines but not in others.
In addition, the lawsuit will contend that EPA based its partial waiver decision on new data submitted to the public rulemaking docket on the day before EPA announced the partial waiver, providing no time for the stakeholder review or meaningful public comment required under the Administrative Procedure Act.
This is exactly the same kind of circumvention of American law and process that the FCC used to put it’s tyrannical control of the internet in place. Perhaps the courts are the last hope to protect American citizens from a government bent on even more control.