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Are You Ready For E15?

February 19, 2009

Minnesota was the pioneer in mandatory ethanol laws, the first state in the US to have a mandatory E10 law.  They want to be the first in the country with a mandatory E20 law.  According to 239.791, Minnesota Statutes 2007:

“Except as provided in subdivisions 10 to 14, on August 30, 2013, and thereafter, a person responsible for the product shall ensure that all gasoline sold or offered for sale in Minnesota must contain at least 20 percent denatured ethanol by volume.”

There are a couple of caveats in this law:

“(1) the commissioner of agriculture certifies and publishes the certification in the State Register that at least 20 percent of the volume of gasoline sold in the state is denatured ethanol; or”

Which means if E85 takes off big time in Minnesota, then this law would not trigger … not likely to happen.

“(2) federal approval has not been granted for the use of E20 as gasoline.”

There has to be an EPA air quality study to satisfy this requirement and car manufacturers must warrant their non flex-fuel cars to be able to use E20.

Federal approval is not proceeding smoothly.

Turns out that UL has given its blessing for regular gas pumps to vend E15, with caveats, but it appears E20 will need new approval.

Notwithstanding Minnesota’s bold leadership, there is another reason that higher ethanol blending will be coming to a service station near you in the foreseeable future, the dreaded “Blending Wall“, so others are pushing for raising the blending limit for non flex-fuel cars.  It was even discussed during the stimulus bill debate so recently signed.

Of course nobody is talking about the unitended consequences of raising the blending limit for non flex-fuel vehicles, and there is the crux of the matter.  All anyone ever talks about is cars.  But what about all of the other engine applications that use auto gasoline, like boats, airplanes, antique and classic cars and motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, small engines both 2 cycle and 4 cycle, that are used in all kinds of tools and stationary applications.  How are they going to do on E15 or E20?

When is it going to dawn on the ethanol and gasoline industry that ethanol blended fuels should only be used in autos with computerized fuel injection systems.  It should not be used in any engine with a fixed jet carburetor.  That is why all of these other engines are exempted in states with mandatory ethanol laws.  The other problem is any vehicle with a fiberglass fuel tank.  There are already class action lawsuits for damage to boats with fiberglass fuel tanks and I have heard of damage in motorcycles and ultralight aircraft that had fiberglass fuel tanks.

You would think that the ethanol and gasoline industry would want to avoid the negative publicity from property damage that their products cause.  There is a simple answer.  Don’t blend ethanol in premium unleaded gasoline and label all of the pumps that have ethanol gasoline.  So far though, greed has triumphed over logic and the lawsuits and negative publicity will continue.

To get a sense of the urgency, google general clark e15 The ethanol industry has hired General Wesley Clark to be their poster boy.

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