Mother Jones: What’s Behind the EPA’s New 4-Gallon Minimum Purchase Mandate?

September 18, 2012

So what's this all about? Well, the ethanol industry has been lobbying for a quite a while to sell E15 — a blend of 85% gasoline and 15% ethanol. Why? Because they want to sell more ethanol, and E15 contains more ethanol than the current E10 blend. But they're not the only ones in favor of E15. The Renewable Fuel Standard, passed in 2007, requires ever greater use of ethanol, and refineries are afraid that before long they won't be able to meet the RFS standards unless they can sell the E15 blend.

But if the ethanol industry is in favor of E15, you can probably guess that the petroleum industry is against it. And you'd be right. After all, 5% more ethanol means 5% less petroleum. Gasoline sales have been declining for the past few years anyway, and the petroleum industry is none too happy about losing even more market share if E15 blends come onto the market.

Both the ethanol and petroleum industries are so odious that it's hard to pick sides here. As it turns out, though, the anti-E15 crowd has some intriguing arguments. The primary one is that E15 only works in cars manufactured after 2001. It doesn't work in older cars, it doesn't work in boats, and, as the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute will tell you, it doesn't work in devices like chain saws, utility vehicles, and lawn mowers. In fact, it can destroy those things if you use it accidentally.