The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft: Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., an expert on autogas and ethanol, and Kent Misegades, Cary, N.C., an aerospace engineer and aviation journalist.
Many of our readers may have heard that the EPA has granted an E15 waiver for 2001-2006 autos and light duty trucks, in addition to the former E15 waiver granted back in October for 2007 and newer vehicles. Theoretically this means that about 2/3 of the auto fleet in the US could pump E15 into their fuel tanks if they wanted to. However, the waiver is voluntary and, in fact, nobody has to actually make E15.
As you can imagine, the ethanol industry is ecstatic. Their foremost lobby, Growth Energy, gushed “… last week’s decision blew a hole in the blend wall.” The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.
Getting a significant number of E15 pumps in place is extremely problematical for a whole host of reasons, yet we will hit the blending wall no later than the first half of 2012, and probably by the end of this year. So time is of the essence.
There are three lawsuits in the courts against the EPA for granting the E15 “partial” waiver by every oil industry representative, the marine industry, the small engine industry, you name it. It will take months, if not years, to litigate. Apparently the EPA’s own rules only allow it to grant an “all or nothing” waiver. There is nothing in its rules that allows it to grant a waiver for some vehicles and not others. It was repeatedly warned that it didn’t have authority to grant a “bifurcated” waiver during the comment period for the waiver back in 2009-2010.
Ironically, the EPA has to change a whole myriad of its own regulations in order to allow E15 to be sold. It is estimated that will take years because many of the changes will require public comments. I am sure that it will ignore the comments, just like it did for the E15 waiver, but it takes time, the one thing the EPA and the ethanol industry don’t have.
Ironically, a significant number of states prohibit selling anything above E10 for non flex-fuel cars, including California, the largest gasoline market in the country and it will take at least a year, probably much longer, to change those laws and there is a good chance the attempts will fail because of outraged citizens. Besides, you think that California is worried about raising the ethanol blending limit that will cost their citizens more money during their worst economic crisis in history? I think they have better things to do with their legislative time.
The gasoline producers and many retail market representatives have stated that they will not sell E15 for non flex-fuel cars unless the federal government passes legislation to exempt them from liability for damage, and remember that this waiver is voluntary, NOT mandatory.
No automobile manufactured so far has a warranty for anything above E10. If you were to put E15 in your car, you would do it at your own risk.
No automobile manufactured to date has an E15 fuel map for the electronic fuel injection system, especially cars manufactured from 2001-2006. In fact they don’t even have a fuel map for E10 because E10 was not widely sold before 2007 after three states passed mandatory E10 laws. So nobody knows what the computer will do when it sees an increase in oxygen. If anecdotal evidence is any indication, mileage will really suffer as the computer tries to enrichen the fuel mixture for all of the excess oxygen it sees in the tailpipe, thus thinking the engine is running very lean.
As it stands today, ethanol is more expensive than gasoline in most market areas, so E15 will be more expensive than E10. So tell me, who is going to put a fuel in their car that is more expensive than E10, results in less mileage and voids their warranty?
Do you still believe the E15 waiver “blew a hole in the blending wall”?
Submitted by Dean Billing