Ethanol damages engines and is not a viable alternative to fossil fuels, but farmers and lobbyists don't want you to know that
"First-generation [corn] ethanol, I think, was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small." —Al Gore, speaking at a green energy conference on Nov. 22, 2010
"Ethanol is not an ideal transportation fuel. The future of transportation fuels shouldn't involve ethanol." —Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Nov. 29, 2010
It is now conceivable that the myth of ethanol as the salvation for America's energy problem is coming to an end. And maybe we always should have known it would wind up in italics, underlined, with the real facts of the damage ethanol can do to gas-powered motors laid out for all to see in a court of law. I say that because this past Monday a group calling itself the Engine Products Group, comprising small-engine manufacturers, automakers, and boat manufacturers, filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to vacate the EPA's October ruling that using a 15 percent blend of ethanol in the nation's fuel supplies would not harm 2007 and newer vehicles.
Each group of plaintiffs in this case has a different reason for objecting to putting more ethanol into America's gasoline. The automakers claim they have no idea whether a higher percentage of ethanol would damage their newer cars—and won't know until their testing is completed next year. The boat manufacturers claim their engines stay in service much longer, and are therefore more likely to be damaged by this fuel. The small-engine manufacturers are positive E15 would severely shorten the life of their products. According to The Washington Post, that's already been happening. The source is Mick Matuskey, co-owner of Power and Lawn Equipment of Gaithersburg, Md., who said, "You're getting half of the life out of the product today [when using E10 ethanol], compared to 30, 40 years ago."
Ultimately this lawsuit stems from one major issue: Manufacturers have to take legal action to protect their customers from the damage higher blends of ethanol would do to their motors, because their warranties generally don't cover it.
Of course, no such lawsuit would be complete without the ethanol lobby trying to obfuscate the facts of the case. Reuters quoted Tom Buis, head of lobbying group Growth Energy, as saying of the new proposed fuel, "E15 is safe for all vehicles on the road today."
That's patently untrue. For years cars nationwide have been damaged when motorists ended up with more than 10 percent ethanol in their fuel. I covered that situation last year in "The Great Ethanol Scam."
But ethanol's newest public-relations problem actually started in the last eight days of November. Having been fervidly pro-ethanol in the last decade of his political career, former Vice-President Al Gore reversed course and apologized for supporting ethanol. Of course, Gore's reason for taking his original position was perfectly understandable—to a politician. As he told energy conference attendees in Athens, Greece, "One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers of Iowa because I was about to run for President."
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