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EPA Approves E15 Fuel Blend For More Cars

January 22, 2011

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced on Friday that it has approved higher levels of corn-based ethanol in gasoline for cars and light-duty trucks manufactured over the past ten years.

The agency, after careful review, decided that 15 percent ethanol in gasoline — known as E15 — is safe for vehicles made between 2001 and 2006.

In October, it had approved the higher blend for cars and light-duty trucks manufactured since 2007, but had postponed its use in older cars pending additional testing by the US Department of Energy.

“Recently completed testing and data analysis show that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in the announcement. “Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America’s vehicles, this administration takes those steps.”

The EPA also announced that it will not decide this year whether to allow the increased levels in cars manufactured before 2001 or in motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles and non-road engines, saying that current data does not support such a waiver. Because ethanol burns hotter than gasoline, it causes catalytic converters to break down quicker.

With the inception of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Congress mandated an increase in using renewable resources, and ethanol is considered a renewable resource, because it comes from plant products or biomass waste.

Ethanol, most popularly used in corn-growing regions, faces criticism from environmentalists, cattle ranchers, food companies and a coalition of other groups. Opponents argue that its increased use makes animal feed more expensive, which in turn sees price increases at the grocery store and also disrupts land.

The EPA granted the E15 waiver in response of an April 2009 petition from Growth Energy and 54 ethanol producers. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can waive the law’s ban against selling altered fuel if the petitioner shows that the new fuel will not harm an automobile’s engine and other emission-related parts.

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