Fabulous: We'll Just Put More Ethanol in your Gas Anyway

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks news-wise, and you don’t need a list of breaking stories to remind you of all that’s been going on. But somewhere in this hectic season I managed to miss a long awaited decision by Obama’s EPA which showed up with the previous Friday’s news dump.

WASHINGTON — Nearly two-thirds of cars on the road could have more corn-based ethanol in their fuel tanks under an Environmental Protection Agency decision Friday.

The agency said that 15 percent ethanol blended with gasoline is safe for cars and light-duty trucks manufactured between 2001 and 2006, expanding an October decision that the higher blend is safe for cars built since 2007.The maximum gasoline blend has been 10 percent ethanol.

This decision was made despite repeated warnings from industry experts who have been pleading for more time to perform exhaustive testing. Were they being overly cautious? That’s a difficult argument to make, particularly since we told you last month that one delay in testing came from the fact that the higher ethanol blend fuel was melting down the seals in pumps and storage tanks during testing.

The laundry list of potential problems from this decision is extensive. Asking distributors to carry yet another fuel (even if it doesn’t melt their pumps) will require logistical juggling, equipment changes, new signs and other expenses which are inevitably passed on down to the consumer. Ethanol burns hotter than conventional fuel, leading to earlier failure of catalytic converters. (An expensive fix, as any of you who have been hit with it at the garage will attest.)

All of this is still being pushed under the cloak of a more environmentally friendly solution to energy challenges, a claim which current science has increasingly put in doubt. But would it at least produce any type of savings as we fight to get the budget under control? Precisely the opposite, as noted by Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group.

Rather than furthering his goal to make America “the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015,” however, Obama’s focus on biofuels as the way “to break our dependence on oil” would have the opposite effect if it means sending billions more taxpayers dollars to corn country to finance ethanol infrastructure, Cox said. “Building an ethanol infrastructure at taxpayer’s expense will just lock us further into the past rather than lead us to tomorrow’s energy future,” added Cox, who heads EWG’s Ames, Iowa, office.

This is clearly a victory for King Corn, but lies in stark contrast to the President’s stated goals of Winning the Future. Exit question: Even if gas stations manage to offer this for cars built in 2001 and after, how will they ensure drivers of older vehicles don’t wind up putting it in their vehicles without retooling the entire delivery system?