E15 Fuel Could Harm Hundreds of Millions of Vehicle and Equipment Engines

Washington D.C. – Today the Energy & Environment Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the science behind the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to grant a waiver permitting the use of mid-level ethanol blends of up to 15 percent, a gasoline blend referred to as “ E15.” Witnesses criticized the scientific and technical evaluations used by the EPA in making their decision and highlighted numerous risks that could be extremely costly to consumers.

“The impact of the E15 decision is potentially massive,” said Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD)“The properties of ethanol are very different from gasoline, and they may result in problems associated with corrosion, engine failure, increased emissions, materials incompatibility, infrastructure, warranty coverage, and the potential for misfueling.  Every American that uses a car, boat, motorcycle, tractor, lawnmower or other gasoline-powered equipment could be negatively affected.”

In January 2011, the EPA Administrator granted a waiver for E15, claiming the higher percentage of ethanol will not cause engines, vehicles, or equipment to fail to meet their emissions standards over their useful life.  The partial waiver extended a waiver from October 2010, further allowing E15 use in model years 2001-2006 light-duty motor vehicles.

The Committee’s Vice Chairman, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) earlier this week released responses from US automakers regarding the consequences of E15 on vehicle engines, fuel economy and warranties.  “The evidence is very clear.  I wrote to 14 automakers and all 14 warned that E15 will damage engines,” Sensenbrenner said.  “Small engine manufacturers are even more concerned.  E15 in a boat engine is like metal in a microwave, and there is no way that the EPA can prevent misfueling.  The decision to allow E15 into the marketplace is bad policy that will cost consumers dearly. Americans shouldn’t have to worry that the fuel they put in their car could cause serious engine damage and void their vehicle’s warranty.  Congress has recognized the absurdity of subsidizing the ethanol industry, but now the EPA is obstinately moving in the opposite direction to achieve its own political agenda.”

Representing the American Petroleum Institute, Mr. Bob Greco, claimed today that “EPA improperly used data from the DOE Catalyst Durability program to draw conclusions about E15 related to certain effects for which the DOE Catalyst Durability program clearly was not designed to evaluate.”  Greco further said that “EPA’s desire to allow more ethanol to be used in conventional vehicles cannot be allowed to harm the investments made by our customers in safe, reliable, and economical vehicle transportation. The oil and auto industries cannot support a premature action that could put consumer satisfaction and safety at risk.”

Echoing these comments, Mr. Jeff Wasil, Emissions Certification Engineer at Evinrude Outboard Motors, said that “EPA has not followed proper procedures in either its decision to propose an ethanol increase in our gasoline supply or in their proposed warnings to consumers about the problems that they know would be caused by E15 gasoline.”  Wasil said that “E15 will cause many engines to fail well before they should. We know that, and the EPA knows that, and it’s the reason we should slow down this abrupt move to introduce E15 into the marketplace.

A witness representing environmental interests also spoke out against the EPA’s waiver.  Claiming that the “nation’s biofuels policy is on the wrong path,” Ms. Heather White, Chief of Staff and General Counsel for the Environmental Working Group, said that “the misguided effort to treat ethanol as an alternative transportation fuel has become a well-founded source of concern for consumers, environmental groups, livestock farmers, automobile makers and the food industry.”  Beyond all of the problems with engines discussed by the other witnesses, Ms. White further claimed that “E15 and higher ethanol blends could have significant adverse impacts on human and environmental health.”

EPA is expected to complete final registration of E15 blends in the near future, triggering the delivery and sale of the new gasoline formulation as early as late 2011. Vehicles older than model year 2001—which represent approximately 32 percent of the motor vehicle fleet—as well as other gasoline-powered products such as outdoor equipment and recreation vehicles remain unapproved for E15 use.

Chairman Harris, as well as a representative from the National Chicken Counsel, also discussed how ethanol policy is artificially driving up the price of corn, making many consumer products more expensive, burdening consumers and businesses nationwide.  Highlighting a poultry company that was a major employer on the Eastern Shore of Maryland being forced out of business, Harris said that “the EPA job-killing machine marches on, driven by a regulate-at-all-costs mentality and unencumbered by facts.” 

The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittee:
Ms. Margo Oge, Director, Office of Transportation and Air Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Mr. Bob Greco, Group Director, Downstream and Industry Operations, American Petroleum Institute
Ms. Heather White, Chief of Staff and General Counsel, Environmental Working Group
Mr. Jeff Wasil, Emissions Certification Engineer, Evinrude Outboard Motors
Mr. Mike Brown, President, National Chicken Council
Mr. W. Steven Burke, President and CEO, Biofuels Center of North Carolina
Dr. Ron Sahu, Technical Consultant, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute