Although very few states still—or ever did—mandate ethanol in gasoline, ethanol-blended gas is widely available; indeed, it can be difficult to find an ethanol-free gas station (if you want to find one near you, try this resource).

The blend wall—the percentage of ethanol to gas considered safe for car engines—is 10% or E-10, and past efforts to create and push E-15 have failed.  The little-known practice of automakers quietly voiding warranties on cars whose owners use E-15 gasoline illustrates the industry’s understanding of the harm that levels of ethanol passing the blend wall (E-10) causes to car engines.  Triple A also warned against the use of E-15 gas in pre-2012 cars.  Not only are engines—cars, boats, lawn mowers, chain saws, etc.— harmed, but ethanol blended into gasoline, not just the higher E-15 blend but even that at the blend wall, also contributes to a loss of mileage.

The percentage of ethanol to gas has been increasing relatively steadily over the past decade as indicated by this graph from Bloomberg:

The EPA is now moving to raise the level of ethanol blended into the majority of the nation’s gasoline past the “safe” E-10 blend wall.

The Washington Times reports:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s move to add more ethanol to gasoline will wreak havoc on lawn mowers, snow blowers, boats and even cars, say critics.

Mixing an additional 700 million gallons of ethanol and other biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply to meet a goal of 18.8 billion gallons in 2017 will raise the biofuel percentage to 10.44 percent, or past the “blend wall” after which car engines can be damaged, said Heartland Institute research fellow Isaac Orr.

The Renewable Fuel Standard has been a bone of contention on both the left and the right . . . for (mostly) different reasons.

The Washington Times continues:

Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, called the 2005 Renewable Fuel Standard “a success story that has driven biofuel production and use in the U.S. to levels higher than any other nation.”

“This administration is committed to keeping the RFS program on track, spurring continued growth in biofuel production and use, and achieving the climate and energy independence benefits that Congress envisioned from this program,” she said in a Wednesday statement.

Ethanol is popular with lawmakers in farming states like Iowa, but the mandate faces increasing opposition from others, including some environmentalists, who object to clearing more land for farming in order to grow the corn-based fuel.

Free-market champions say the standard no longer makes sense because oil and natural gas have become so plentiful thanks to advances in extraction technology, starting with hydraulic fracturing. The ethanol mandate also raises the cost of fuel.

At the time, Congress was attempting to reduce emissions as well as U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Since then, the United States has become the world’s largest producer of natural gas and doubled its oil production, sending prices plummeting.

Jazz Shaw over at Hot Air sums up this new EPA push for ethanol blends that surpass the blend wall well:

The EPA’s ethanol mandate is bad news all the way around and it’s less sensible than ever now that America is a global leader in energy production. At this point it’s simply a relic of politics designed to keep a small but influential special interest group happy. Unfortunately, you’re the ones paying the price for it and that’s not going to change as long as the Democrats are in control of the White House and appointing the folks working at the Environmental Protection Agency.

I would add only that GOP complicity in the RFS and ethanol mandate is also a problem, as we saw during this year’s contentious Iowa GOP caucuses.  Happily, Florida finally repealed its ethanol mandate in 2013, and I have been happily voting with my feet, or in this case my gas tank, ever since.

[Featured image via the Fiscal Times]


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.