- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2012

The corner gas station soon might be pumping fuel with an extra slug of ethanol. That’s bad news for drivers because they could be saddled with the bill for big repair expenses. Drivers can thank the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for this because bureaucrats there have been unrelenting in their push to dilute pure gasoline with a politically correct additive.

In June, the EPA waived Clean Air Act restrictions on the sale of E15, a fuel blend containing 15 percent corn alcohol. A coalition of automakers, fearful that a boost of ethanol in fuel will harm engines, succeeded in winning a temporary stay of the waiver. On Aug. 17, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit swept away a legal challenge to the sale of “midlevel” ethanol, ruling that the manufacturers lacked standing to contest the EPA’s waiver.

E10 — fuel containing 10 percent ethanol — has been around for years and is considered relatively safe for use in most cars. In 2009, corn growers petitioned the EPA for a profit-boosting increase in the cap on ethanol content. This will help the industry achieve the artificial mandate Congress established, guaranteeing the companies sales of 36 billion gallons of their product by 2020. The EPA announced in 2010 that E15, which has 50 percent more corn juice, was safe for use in model year 2007 cars and newer. Then, last year, the agency expanded the claim to include all cars made since 2001 and designed a pump label to warn drivers of older cars about misfueling dangers.

Auto manufacturers have argued that’s not adequate because the reformulated blend hasn’t been properly tested. “It is not in the longer-term interest of consumers, the government and all parties involved to discover after the fact that equipment or performance problems are occurring because a new fuel was rushed into the national marketplace,” said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in a statement following the court ruling.

The Association of Global Automakers contends E15 is more corrosive than gasoline and could damage cylinder heads, requiring $2,000 to $8,000 in labor-intensive repairs, depending on the type of engine. This would come directly out of the pockets of car owners because use of E15 would void auto warranties.

This isn’t about “saving the planet.” In fact, drivers can expect poorer gas mileage with the ethanol-blended fuel. Consumer Reports, the product-testing organization, found a flex-fuel vehicle designed to run on ethanol logged a nearly 30 percent drop in fuel economy when using E15. The Government Accountability Office has warned that the fuel also could damage underground fuel-storage tanks, which cost station owners about $100,000 each to replace.

If Americans suffer costly car repair bills as a result of the EPA’s ethanol push, they’re likely to conclude that E15 is junk food for cars.

The Washington Times