Supreme Court allows EPA to wreck car engines with E15 ethanol

Dow Jones reports:

-The Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider legal challenges by several industry trade groups to an Environmental Protection Agency move to expand ethanol use in the U.S.

Trade groups for food producers, the oil and gas sector and the auto industry all sued to contest a pair of EPA decisions that allowed the sale of gasoline blends containing 15% ethanol. The agency regulates fuels based on the pollution they create.

Currently, most of the U.S. gasoline supply contains 10% of the renewable fuel.

The EPA’s move handed a partial victory to ethanol manufacturers, which had pushed the agency to allow the higher blends. The agency allowed the so-called E15 fuel for use in vehicles dating back to the 2001 model year, but not for older cars and trucks.

The various trade groups alleged they would suffer a variety of harms from the increased ethanol use.

For example, members of the food industry argued it would cost more to make and distribute food products because the introduction of E15 fuel would increase demand–and prices–for corn, which is used to make most ethanol.

The auto industry alleged the new fuel could damage vehicle engines, prompting consumers to bring warranty and safety claims against car makers. Petroleum refiners and importers said the introduction of E15 would force them to incur substantial costs.

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13 thoughts on “Supreme Court allows EPA to wreck car engines with E15 ethanol”

  1. I am a scooter mechanic and no I don’t see an engine exploding because of ethanol. What I do see is constant fuel system problems. From simple water contamination to major fuel leaks that have caused fires. I have seen fuel lines get brittle and leak, fuel vales leaking including corrosion on vales seats in petcocks and in carburetors blocking ports. The water that is held in suspension by the ethanol is denser and will cause etching of fuel injectors. Also Ethanol has less BTU’s and requires more fuel to be burned for the same power levels. Wow, wheres the gas savings in that. And last, this is for you chemists, Check out the formulas for ETBE (ethanol now) and MTBE that use to be used in gasoline.

  2. Absolutely. The only real “damage” in the least worst case would be minor things such as seals and corrosion, but the major stuff could lead to catalytic converter damage (useless thing anyway – chuck it if possible) or pistons and plugs due to excessively lean mixture causing overheat. It depends mostly on the type of engine.

    I can’t see e15 doing that sort of nasty, but an older engine just won’t run the same and is best re-tuned. E85 is something I’d rather modify the engine for to get best performance and reduce chance of any damage if I couldn’t get anything else.

    Just adding for everyone’s info – many people erroneously think that a higher octane means more power and buy all manner of octane boosters. Higher octane fuel is more able to resist compression-ignition (knocking, pinging) and therefore has a higher resistance to “ignition” all up.

    Most octane boosters are simply heavier oils that burn slower and retard the flame front, such as kerosene. Only useful if you’ve shaved the head to increase compression.

  3. There is a huge difference between “problems” and actual engine damage. Thanks for the intelligent reply.

  4. I doubt very much that e85 would cause a blown head, piston or such, as its high octane reduces the ability for detonation. The main concern are fuel lines, tanks, pumps, filters, injectors and seals that aren’t made to survive ethanol, causing corrosion, blockages and leaks.

    Here in Australia, we have regular fuel and then blends of e5 and e10. In every engine I’ve tried e10 – even from differing manufacturers – I lose about 10% fuel economy, because ethanol isn’t very energy dense. To gain any benefit of higher octane fuels, the compression ratio must be increased. I could only imagine how bad a car would run on e85 that wasn’t made for it. It’d run too cold, be really unresponsive and foul the plugs.

    The EGO sensor would be confused and give the engine the wrong amount of fuel, possibly too lean. Engines running methanol for example need to use larger jets in the carbies.

    Some friends of mine managed to get hold of a drum of aviation fuel (not jet fuel) years ago – which typically has an octane of about 130. Their cars ran shit.

    I can retain some performance when using e5 by advancing the ignition timing, but I can only go so far and e10 is just that – too far. E15 will undoubtedly cause some damage in older vehicles if the drivers are uninformed, much like the secret roll-out of unleaded that occurred here decades ago.

    Straying too far from the blends that current engines can handle will cause problems.

  5. I, for one, don’t buy into all this “damage your engine” bullshit. If multiple manufacturers make engines that can use up to E85, why would they make other engines that are completely intolerant of ethanol? That just does not make any sense. I do understand the concerns with really old carbureted engines, however. Another thing- some high-performance engine builders are using E85 due its naturally-high octane numbers. Where is the engine damage concern there? There’s just too many people spouting off about something which they know little-to-nothing about. An exploding engine running E15 in the morning rush? Give me a break!

  6. In Germany, insurance companies offer insurance against engine damage if you are using even E10 in your car. An exploding engine running E15 in the morning rush is a potential cause of a mass collision. Who pays? EPA? Chevron? The car manufacturer? The White House?

  7. My 2013 Nissan manual says NOT to use anything higher than E10 or it will cause damage to the pollution control system. It seems the EPA is setting themselves up to fail.

  8. It would be a hard case to make. By precedent, policy is not available as a tort for suing. Negligent application of policy can be but generally not the policy itself.
    One could try a class-action under the 5th Amendment for a mass taking of smaller engines like trimmers and lawn mowers that can’t use E-15, maybe. That’s a very slim reed as well.

  9. I’d be fine if the energy industry offered a range of ethanol from 0% to 85%, at realistic prices, and the consumers would settle the matter. I am opposed to the mandates, for all the reasons that JunkScience readers know so well and “progressives” don’t.
    Sean, “the enemy of my enemy” isn’t my friend. The real environmentalists could be our allies except that their movement got co-opted by watermelons and now I can’t tell them apart.

  10. It’s time to argue the environmental impact of E15. These would include the amount of marginal land put into corn production, the user of larger amounts of fertilizer, pumping more water than can be replenished from aquifers, the effluent loading of rivers and tributaries, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps its time to sleep with the enemy so to speak and work with an environmental group to stop this nonsense.

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