WASHINGTON?The Obama administration plans to allow higher levels of ethanol for gasoline used by newer cars, a step that would benefit corn growers but which has been strongly opposed by auto makers, livestock ranchers, oil refiners and some public-health advocates.
As early as Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to announce it will allow ethanol levels in gasoline blends to be as high as 15% for vehicles made since 2007, up from 10% currently, according to two people familiar with the matter.
For cars made between 2001 and 2006, the agency will say it is awaiting the outcome of additional research and not ready to announce a decision.
The agency's move is likely to be strongly challenged by livestock ranchers, auto makers and oil refiners.
While the groups have varying motives for opposing greater corn ethanol production, they?along with many environmentalists?generally say the government hasn't conducted sufficient testing to warrant higher concentrations of ethanol in motor fuels.
Opponents of the move say allowing 15% ethanol blends for some cars but not others could confuse consumers at the pump.
Anticipating such criticism, the EPA plans to also solicit comment on how gasoline pumps should be labeled, so as to avoid or reduce the potential that drivers will put the wrong fuel into their cars, the people familiar with the matter said.
An EPA spokesman declined to comment late Tuesday on the agency's intentions, saying "we have nothing to announce at this point."
The EPA's decision comes as the Obama administration is under criticism by some Farm Belt lawmakers for what they say are overly burdensome regulations from the agency. In South Dakota, Republican Kristi Noem has called for EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's resignation, citing the agency's inaction on the issue some 18 months after an ethanol industry trade group formally petitioned the agency for such a step.
The cause of boosting ethanol use in cars has been strongly championed by Growth Energy, an ethanol trade group led by Wesley Clark, the retired Army general and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate.
Gen. Clark's group petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency last year to allow ethanol levels in gasoline blends to be as high as 15%, up from the current 10%.
Without the increase, the group said the U.S. won't be able to meet a congressional mandate requiring some 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be blended into the domestic fuel supply by 2022.
A spokesman for Gen. Clark's group said "we expect any decision from the EPA will draw the same conclusion that independent testing has shown?that E-15 is a suitable fuel for American motorists."
The EPA proposal will provoke a lobbying battle among powerful interests.
A spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute accused the EPA of putting "politics before science."
"You're going to have fuels in the marketplace that could damange engines and void warranties," the spokesman, Bob Greco, said. Auto makers have also fought the proposal to boost the ethanol blend limit, saying it could result in damage to older cars.
The ethanol industry has lobbied to boost the blend limit because holding the current 10 percent standard would limit the size of the U.S. ethanol industry to somewhere between 13 billion gallons and 13.5 billion gallons, depending on gasoline demand. But the industry has construction projects underway that would boost its annual capacity beyond 13.5 billion gallons in a matter of months.
It's not clear how much the EPA's move might increase ethanol demand since it would give blenders the option to increase the level of ethanol in gasoline. While such a move would likely be the most popular with gasoline stations in big ethanol producing states such as Iowa and Minnesota, it isn't clear how retailers on the coasts might react.
Another critical concern for the ethanol industry: the 45 cents a gallon excise tax credit that has long helped to drive demand for ethanol is slated to expire at the end of the year.
I don't think 15% ethanol mix in the gas will be adverse to the operation of the older cars. Actually it should increase the octane a slight amount and make the engine run a tad cooler. Might loose a bit of fuel economy in a engine designed to run gas as Ethanol has about 33% less btu's than gasoline (methanol has about 50% less btu's than gasoline.) In vehicles with ECM modules the slight increase in octane from the addition of ethanol to the fuel should allow it to advance the timing a bit which should give the vehicle a bit more get up and go. A little alcohol in the gas mix should act like a water injector and gradually clean off the carbon build up in the cylinders and heads. Your older vehicles with carberators should run fine with up to 20%-25% ethanol mix in the gas without re-jetting. In older engines that run distributors you should be able to bump your timing up a bit to maximize performance as well.
You shouldn't have any of the problems to overcome or tune out with a 15% mix ethanol like you do when you convert to run pure anhydrous ethanol in a gasoline engine.
According to auto manufacturers, adding more ethanol with cause more heat with igniton which will burn the valves in older vehicles. Ethanol also decreases gas mileage, which means you burn more fuel, increasing pollutants and expense.
I converted a '69 Camaro with a 350 small block to run pure ethanol in 1972, I converted a 1971 Chevelle with a 402 big block in 1974 to run methanol. The insides of these motors were pretty much stock. The '69 Camaro was a bit of work, as it was the first one I did, but was fairly easy and ran good but not great. I bought a Bolaws Holley carb they modified to run methanol for the Chevelle and crammed alot of extra timing into the distributor and it ran like a Stripped a$$ed ape. The Chevelle ran much better than ever on gas. Both of these vehicles were factory hot rods. Now the most awsome one was the 410 small block Chevy in the '74 Camaro I owned. Of course the motor was built for racing and for methanol. 878 HP @ 8300 RPM. The 410 cu. in small block also had 15:1 compression and a camshaft ground for methanol. The '74 Camaro was a street car. All these vehicles ran way too cold on alcohol and I had to modify their cooling systems to run much hotter to run well and not "gas out" the rings and dilute the oil with alochol fuel.
As far as 10% or 15% ethanol added to gas, you are correct, you most likiely will use more fuel but your tailpipe emmissions are less than straight gas. Also with the 10% or 15% ethanol added your displacing that much percent of gas and still are using less of it even you may be using more of the ethanol blend gas fuel.
I had a 2000 1/2 ton Silverado with a 5.3 liter V-8 which was not a GM flex fuel engine option. You were not supposed to run E85 through non- flex fuel engine acording to the manufacture. I ran the Silverado for a year on the E-85 to prove a point to an acquantance of mine that it doesn't really make a difference and it didn't hurt it. I sold it with 180,000 miles on it and the gent that has it now just turned 300,00 miles on the odometer and it still runs great. I've also run E85 through my 2008 GMC Sierra 1/2 ton which is also not a flex fuel option motor and it runs good as well. Actually they do use a bit more fuel but they do run a lot better on E-85 and a bit cooler.
Trust me, the 10% or 15% ethanol in you gas will not hurt new or even older vehicles unless the older vehicle is to only be run on leaded gas. The last time there was any lead in your gas was in the late 1970's unless you added it yourself. The manufacture lies about this to cover their a$$.
The bigger problem than less mileage as I understand it with it on older cars is the rubber parts in the fuel system that will deteriorate faster since they were formulated for gas, and alcohol is more corrosive. The same applies to all of the small engines like mowers, chain saws, weed eaters and outboards. That's why most marinas sell only 100% gasoline.