Feds: 15% ethanol blend safe for 2001-2007 vehicles
ST. PAUL Opening the door to more ethanol, federal officials said Friday that a 15 percent ethanol blend -- dubbed E-15 -- can be used safely in all cars and pickup trucks built between 2001 and 2007. The U.S. Environment Protection Agency ruling...
Opening the door to more ethanol, federal officials said Friday that a 15 percent ethanol blend -- dubbed E-15 -- can be used safely in all cars and pickup trucks built between 2001 and 2007.
The U.S. Environment Protection Agency ruling, coupled with its earlier approval for newer vehicles, means that all cars built since 2001 have now been cleared to safely use a fuel blend of 15 percent ethanol/85 percent gasoline.
Previously, no more than 10 percent ethanol was deemed safe to use in most engines.
Ethanol boosters cheered the decision, but it rankled many foes. Still, the practical effect is likely to be muted. With one-third of U.S. passenger vehicles still not approved to use a 15 percent ethanol blend, fuel suppliers will be wary of selling E-15 too widely.
"Today's decision green-lights the use of E-15 for nearly two out of every three cars on the road today and further proves ethanol is a safe, effective fuel choice for American drivers," said Bob Dinneen, president of the ethanol industry trade association. "EPA continues to move in the right direction with respect to increasing ethanol blends, but challenges still remain."
But ethanol's opponents were dismayed, ranging from livestock and food producers to environmentalists and automakers.
Livestock and poultry groups said the decision would lead to even tighter supplies of corn and higher food prices. Minnesota is a leading corn and ethanol producer, but it's also a major
hog-producing state and the nation's No. 1 turkey producer.
"EPA's decision completely disregarded significant scientific and economic evidence surrounding E-15 and its potentially disastrous impact," said National Turkey Federation's President Joel Brandenberger. "It sends a terrible signal to an already-volatile market at a time when corn supplies are very tight."
The Minnesota Legislature in 2005 passed a 20 percent ethanol mandate -- tops in the nation -- but the law requires the federal government to first approve such ethanol/gasoline blend levels. That hasn't happened.
Dave Frederickson, Minnesota's agriculture commissioner, welcomed the move in that direction. He said research in Minnesota has found that blends of up to 20 percent ethanol "are compatible with vehicles on the road today."
Minnesota is the nation's No. 4 ethanol-producing state with 21 refineries capable of producing 1.1 billion gallons of ethanol a year. For a state with no fossil-fuel reserves, corn-based ethanol long has been viewed as a big winner, helping support crop prices and boosting rural communities as well as cleaning the air and easing the grip of foreign oil cartels.
But as the industry has grown, so has criticism of the subsidies lavished on the industry, the government mandates that prop it up and whether it has become a runaway train that is devastating corn users. About 37 percent of this year's U.S. corn crop will be used to produce ethanol.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.