Opinion: Ethanol not the answer

October 22, 2013

Edward F. Alf III, October 21 – With the nation’s attention focused on the federal budget negotiations and the health care law, another issue of extreme importance is being largely ignored – or at least tolerated – while other matters take center stage. It is the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which most people know as the ethanol mandate.

Motorists, especially those who pump their own gas, are familiar with ethanol because gasoline pumps are affixed with a sticker divulging that today’s gasoline contains 10 percent ethanol. This blend of gasoline and ethanol is called E10, and it was part of the renewable fuels legislation passed by Congress in 2005 and expanded in 2007. The renewable fuels standard was created to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and benefit the environment. But questions persist about the wisdom of including ethanol in transportation fuels.

For example, anyone who monitors their vehicle’s gas mileage has noticed they must fill up more often because ethanol packs less energy than gasoline. In older vehicles, E10 also can foul engines because ethanol is incompatible with gaskets, o-rings and other fuel system components. The corn-based alcohol is corrosive and tends to attract and hold water – two attributes that can be detrimental to engine performance.

The power boat industry is becoming increasingly concerned about ethanol because the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the ethanol mandate, has granted approval for the sale of E15, a fuel blend containing up to 15 percent ethanol. Boat engines are built to run on gasoline blends containing up to 10 percent ethanol, but can be severely damaged by E15.