OGJ Washington Editor
WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 17 -- Raising the allowable ethanol limit in gasoline to 15% from 10% will cause little, if any, change in the engine performance of cars and light trucks manufactured from 1994 to 2000, a study commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association concluded. The study by engineering firm Ricardo Inc. analyzed six companies’ older models, which represent 25% of light-duty vehicles on US roads today, RFA said.
The findings conclusively prove that there is no reason for the US Environmental Protection Agency to limit use of fuels with 15% ethanol to newer vehicles, RFA Pres. Bob Dineen said as the group released the study on Sept. 15. “This analysis, together with affirmative results from the [US] Department of Energy and other academic and private testing institutions, show there are no significant issues with the use of E15 in virtually all vehicles on the road today,” he maintained.
Oil industry groups quickly disagreed. “The engineering assessment RFA produced adds little, if anything, useful to making a good decision on the future of E15,” an American Petroleum Institute spokesman said in a Sept. 16 e-mailed response. “Let’s let the federal government complete its more thorough scientific investigation and testing, and then see where we stand.”
Hundreds of millions of vehicles and other devices with gasoline-powered engineers would potentially use E15, he added. “We need to be certain as good science will permit that the new fuel, if approved, will not adversely affect the huge investment consumers have made. To do otherwise would be irresponsible,” he said.
Gregory M. Scott, executive vice-president and general counsel at the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, said that no additional testing apparently was done on motor vehicles for this latest study. “It was just someone reviewing previous studies’ results and summarizing them into a conclusion,” he told OGJ on Sept. 16. “The study’s author didn’t even sign it, which provides a sense of how strongly this supposedly independent engineering firm felt about its conclusions.”
Scott said NPRA’s position remains that sufficient testing has not been completed for EPA to approve the petition filed last year by Growth Energy, another ethanol advocacy group, to raise the allowable ethanol limit in gasoline. EPA has indicated that it could reach a decision soon. “Even with the testing that DOE is doing, which we believe is inadequate, the Coordinated Research Testing Council has asked for more, and DOE and EPA has ignored those requests. We believe EPA’s pending action is premature,” Scott said.
He said that Growth Energy submitted “a large stack of tests” with its application, and that NPRA commented on each of them and tore them down, piece by piece. One study ran three vehicles for 10,000 miles, while another ignored inconvenient data and defied the laws of physics by concluding that mileage would not decline even with an increase in ethanol to 15% from 10%, according to Scott. “Since the Btu’s in the mixture go down as more ethanol is introduced, wouldn’t mileage go down too?” he asked.
“There’s nothing new in the RFA study that would make NPRA reconsider its criticism of other ethanol fuel industry-financed studies,” Scott said.
Contact Nick Snow at email@example.com.
Older vehicles can safely use E15, RFA-backed study finds