There’s a political storm brewing in the biggest city in the Corn Belt, Chicago, as city alderman Burke and the ethanol lobby push for a mandate on higher ethanol blends like E15 and E85, which contain 15 and 85 percent ethanol, respectively.
Despite the lack of consumer demand and potential for massive engine damage that higher ethanol blends can cause, proponents of the mandate, including a local chapter of the American Lung Association (an organization who once lobbied against ethanol mandates), say that forcing E15 on consumers will be “better for the air.”
Unfortunately, science says otherwise.
Fellow Midwesterner, Dr. Jason Hill, Land-Grant Professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota and Resident Fellow of the University’s Institute on the Environment, conducted a study comparing gasoline vehicles to their alternatives, including corn ethanol. According to Dr. Hill, “If we're using ethanol for environmental benefits, for air quality and climate change, we're going down the wrong path.”
The study considered hybrids, diesel, CNG, corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol and electric vehicles and found that vehicles powered by corn ethanol and coal-generated electricity were the most damaging to air quality.
When considering the full lifecycle of corn ethanol, its use actually increases ozone, poor air quality deaths and particulate matter from higher fertilizer use than using gasoline.
And the ethanol lobby is no stranger to broken promises. This “green” policy actually does more harm than good to our environment for a lot of reasons, including water and land use, higher all-around emissions and now these air quality issues. Further, despite assurances that fuel blends would work with American’s existing autos, these higher blends are only actually approved for 10 percent of the cars on the road — and none of today’s small engines like boats, lawn mowers, snow blowers, chainsaws or motorcycles.
Thankfully Mayor Rahm Emanuel has delayed the policy for now, but Chicagoans need to stand up against these false claims which will actually make air worse, while putting engines at risk.
Outside of Chicago? Well your city (or state) could be next.