This week, Zarco 66, a Phillips 66 fuel retailer in Lawrence, Kan., became the first retailer to sell E15 in the U.S. But, its launch was met with controversy—with the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) each weighing in.
Yesterday, the API’s downstream group director Bob Greco warned consumers that “the new fuel could lead to engine damage in more than 5 million vehicles on the road today and could void the manufacturer’s warranty.”
Greco pointed to a three-year study conducted by the auto and oil industries, determining that E15 can cause damage even though EPA has approved use of the new fuel for cars and light trucks model year 2001 and newer. He added, “Our first priority should be protecting consumers and the investments they’ve made in their automobiles. EPA has an obligation to base this decision on science and not on a political agenda.”
The RFA responded that the study’s protocols were questionable enough to draw a rebuke from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) which conducted more than 6 million miles of testing on E15 and found no problems for vehicles built in model year 2001 and newer.
In May, Patrick Davis, Vehicle Technologies Program Manager, DOE, stated the study, conducted by the Coordinating Research Council (CRC), was “significantly flawed.” He reported that the CRC failed to establish a proper control group, a standard component of scientific, data-driven testing and a necessity to determine statistical significance for any results. To read more, visit http://www.doe.gov/articles/getting-it-right-accurate-testing-and-assessments-critical-deploying-next-generation-auto.
Among Davis’s arguments, this is interesting. He pointed out that the CRC decided to select several engines already known to have durability issues, including one subject to a recall involving valve problems when running on straight gasoline and E10. “It is no surprise that an engine having problems with traditional fuels might also ‘fail’ with E15 or E20 ethanol-blended fuels—especially using a failure criterion chosen to demonstrate sensitivity to ethanol and operated on a cycle designed to stress the valves.”
Prior to the CRC’s findings, the DOE conducted its own thorough and peer-reviewed study of the impact of E15 fuel on current, conventional vehicle catalyst systems. This test was run on standard gasoline, E10, E15 and E20. This program tested 86 vehicles operated up to 120,000 miles each using an industry-standard EPA-defined test cycle (called the Standard Road Cycle). The test data showed no statistically significant loss of vehicle performance (emissions, fuel economy, and maintenance issues) attributable to the use of E15 fuel compared to straight gasoline.
RFA’s President and CEO Bob Dinneen said this week, “The fact remains that E15 has been the most thoroughly tested fuel in American history and ethanol has been a safe and effective fuel component in wide use for more than three decades. It’s time to move past the nonsense and constructively work to bring Americans the choice at the pump they want and deserve.”
For more information about E15, click on www.ChooseEthanol.com/E15.