The ethanol lobby may still be reeling in the subsidies, but it doesn’t seem to be having any luck dealing with their other obsession, the so-called “blend wall,” i.e. the legally prescribed limit to the amount of ethanol that can be mixed into gasoline. The NYT has a nice summary of the mounting scientific and industry backlash against ethanol lobbyist Growth Energy’s EPA petition to raise the blend wall from 10% to 15%. The NYT lays out some of the objections this way:
Approving E15 would have a huge impact on consumers, said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, and could cause problems including the voiding of car warranties. “There’s a lot to worry about,” he said. “All a consumer has to do is look at the fuels section of the owner’s manual, which says that the use of fuel above 10 percent ethanol may result in denial of warranty claims.”
Somehow, it’s hard to see the EPA ruling to instantaneously void the warranties of hundreds of millions of vehicles. Meanwhile, automakers and equipment manufacturers also seem to think raising the blend wall is a bad idea:
While automakers generally favor wider use of biofuels, Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing 11 automakers, said Growth Energy had failed to prove that E15 would not damage vehicles engineered to run on a maximum of 10 percent ethanol. More testing is needed, he said.
“We are not asking for this to be delayed forever,” Mr. Territo said. “We are asking for this to be delayed until the testing is complete.”
Mr. Kiser, of the outdoor power equipment group, said some initial tests already indicated that E15 could cause serious problems — including safety issues — with some small engines.
At Honda, which makes a wide range of engines for products from minivans to power generators, the concern is that the effects of a big increase in an additive like ethanol are unknown, said Edward B. Cohen, vice president for government and industry relations at American Honda. “The impact can be on the emissions system, like the catalytic converter,” he said. “It can be on the various tubes or couplings that are part of the fuel system, and it could affect the performance of the vehicle, particularly cold starting.”
The article goes on to detail a wide range of objections (and objectors) to the blend wall petition. Interestingly, however, the article makes no mention of the impact on commodity prices or land use or carbon emissions that a blend wall increase would entail. But no matter. The piece is devastating enough without those additions. And how does the ethanol industry react to this litany of potentially negative effects, both known and unknown, surrounding its demands? If you’re Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, you throw a hissy fit:
“You know, some people don’t want to do anything — they just want to test, test, test or study, study, study,” Mr. Buis said. “You know, this nation has been stalling for 30-some years from becoming energy independent.”
That’s right. You just have our best interests at heart, don’t you, Mr. Buis. If only we realized that we simply can’t afford to actually know what we’re doing. After all, ignorance of the consequences of using food for fuel has gotten us so far. Why stop now?