New ethanol blend could damage some vehicles

   (EWG) - 2/19/2012 - The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision on February 17 to pave the way for the sale of gasoline blended with up to 15 percent ethanol is likely to prove a nightmare for car owners who improperly fuel their gas tanks.
   Every major automaker has warned that millions of vehicle warranties will be voided if drivers fill up with E15. That means consumers will pull into gas stations that could have as many as four pumps with different kinds of fuel: one for E10 (up to 10 percent ethanol); one for E15; possibly one for E85 (between 70 and 85 percent ethanol); and maybe one for old-fashioned gasoline. The EPA intends to approve E15 only for vehicles manufactured after 2000. But some gas station pumps may not even have labels specifying which ethanol blend is which, because not every state requires them.
   "It is going to be extremely confusing and dangerous for consumers," said Sheila Karpf, a legislative analyst at the Environmental Working Group. "If they make a mistake and put E15 into an older car or small engine, there's a good chance they'll ruin their engine and the manufacturer's warranty won't cover the damage."
   To advance consumer safety, EWG analysts have created an Ethanol Blends Guide and Fact Sheet to help drivers choose the right fuel for their vehicles. The analysis provides more information about the new E15 label requirements.
   Ethanol is more corrosive and burns hotter than gasoline, properties that could cause some engines to stall, misfire and overheat. Fuel with higher ethanol blends emits more nitrous oxide and formaldehyde than gasoline, lowers mileage and damages fuel tanks and pumps.
   "Instead of approving a fuel that will pose health and safety hazards and damage engines, the U.S. should invest in energy efficiency measures and research and development for truly sustainable biofuels," said Karpf. "The high cost of replacing or repairing engines will be tacked onto corn ethanol's other costs -- including higher food prices, increased soil erosion and polluted water supplies."
   To be safe, EWG recommends that consumers stick with E10 or regular unleaded gasoline if they can find it. If gas pumps are not labeled, consumers should ask a service station employee for more information about the fuel and the amount of ethanol it contains. Consumers should check with their engine manufacturers or mechanics to find out if their cars or small engines can safely run on E15 or other ethanol blends.
   Source: Environmental Working Group

Photo by Steve Rensberry (c) 2014