E15 gets EPA approval for use at gas stations

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Ethanol gas

The controversial E15 gas blend has been approved for sale, except in older cars, by the Environmental Protection Agency. Photo Credit: Mariordo/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Appearing soon at a gas station near you, is the E15 fuel blend, gasoline which is 15 percent ethanol. The mixture has caused some controversy among car makers, but has been granted official approval by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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For decades, gasoline has been mixed with ethanol, an alternative fuel. Granted, it’s only an alternative fuel for cars; people have been fueled by ethanol for millennia, as ethanol is the chemical name for alcohol. Ethanol used in fuel is made from corn, or in other words, is essentially moonshine.

However, ethanol works in cars because it has a high octane rating, according to USA Today. The standard blend currently sold at gas stations is E10, a 10 percent ethanol, 90 percent gasoline mixture.

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The Environmental Protection Agency has been mulling over implementing E15, a 15 percent ethanol fuel, which was approved for people to use earlier this year. The EPA has just approved E15 for sale by gas stations, according to AutoBlog.

Controversy abounds

E10 is safe to use in modern and older vehicles, but many within the automotive industry are concerned about the use of E15. Ethanol attracts moisture and is more corrosive than gasoline, according to USA Today, which can damage engine parts.

A study by FEV, a sometime-consultant company for the EPA,  was performed at the behest of the Coordinating Research Council, finding E15 damaged piston valves and valve seats, increased emissions and induced misfires. It also observed lower compression and diminished fuel economy. The study tested the fuel in “high-volume passenger cars,” meaning popular cars and concluded the most likely repair necessitated by damage caused by using E15 would be valve replacement, which can cost upward of $2,000 or more.

A study by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute also found E15 is harmful to marine motors as well as small gasoline engines such as motorcycles, lawn mowers and chainsaws, according to AutoBlog.

However, Growth Energy, a consortium of ethanol producers, has countered by pointing out EPA studies have found no ill effects in typical engines and also that NASCAR stock cars are often powered by E15, according to USA Today.

Could take time

The EPA has approved E15 for sale, according to AutoBlog, but not in cars from model year 2001 or older; drivers with older cars should avoid it.

How soon E15 will be available at gas stations nationwide is up in the air. According to the Minnesota Star-Tribune, E10 was introduced in the 1970s but still took some time to be introduced to gas stations nationwide. E15 is likely to appear in the Midwest first, possibly by the end of the month.

Various car makers manufacture flex-fuel vehicles, though flex-fuel cars have different fuel injection and engine components enabling them to work on a variety of fuels. E15 has been a going concern for some time for car makers. Ford and Toyota, for several years, have been installing warning placards on fuel filler caps, warning consumers not to use E15 gasoline.

Sources

AutoBlog

USA Today

Minnesota Star-Tribune

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