Car manufacturers overwhelmingly oppose new EPA-approved E15 fuel

Amanda Carey Contributor
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The automobile industry has responded to a rule authorized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that allows E15 fuel — 85 percent gasoline, 15 percent ethanol — to be sold at gas stations across the country. In short: the response is anything but supportive.

Car manufacturers like Ford, BMW, Toyota and Honda, expressed disapproval of the E15 mixture intended to help ween the industry off foreign oil. Their responses were just made public Tuesday afternoon.

Almost all of the companies’ qualms are based on the fact that E15 would do irreparable damage to cars made before 2001 and using the new ethanol fuel would violate many of the warranties they issue for their vehicles.

In her letter to Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Vice Chair of the House Science Committee, Susan Clsohke, Group Vice President at Ford Motor Company, said they do “not support the introduction of E15 into the marketplace for the legacy fleet.” The letter also said that “fuel not approved in the owner’s manual is considered misfueling and any damage resulting from misfueling is not covered by the warranty.”

Thomas Baloga, Vice President of Engineering for BMW in the U.S., wrote a letter to Sensenbrenner saying, that “BMW Group engines and fuel supply systems can be damaged by misfueling with E15.” Baloga also added that “damage appears in the form of very rapid corrosion of fuel pump parts, rapid formation of sludge in the oil pan, plugged filters, and other damage that is very costly to the vehicle owner.”

Toyota had similar concerns. “Toyota cannot recommend the use of fuel with greater than E10 for Toyota vehicles currently on the road,” wrote Thomas Lehner, Vice President of Government and Industry Affairs. “Our policy remains that we will not provide warranty coverage for issues arising from the misuse of fuels that exceed specified limits.” (Inhofe letter asks why EPA requests $1.24 billion in new funding, despite $2 billion on hand)

Other companies that reacted to the E15 mix include Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, Nissan, Volkswagen, Volvo, Hyundai, and Kia.

Volkswagen even went after the EPA by name, writing that the agency, “did not conduct an adequate test program when E15 was considered and then approved for use in conventional vehicles.”

“It is hard to understand why EPA is pushing a fuel that can void a car’s warranty, lower its MPG, harm older vehicles, and cause confusion at the pump,” Richard Russell, who was Deputy Director for Technology in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Bush Administration, told The Daily Caller.

“It seems as if the EPA hasn’t really considered the impact of its support for corn-based E15 on consumers,” Russell added.

That confusion at the pump, some say, will come when unsuspecting consumers accidentally fill their gas tanks with E15 fuel only to find out their vehicle can’t handle the high ethanol content.

To combat that, the EPA has approved a warning label that will be placed on pumps selling E15, cautioning drivers to only use E15 in 2001 or newer models. The label also says that using E15 in the wrong engines is now literally a federal offense.

By all accounts the E15 fuel appears to be a case of politics trumping science, or at least, politics trumping industry wishes.

“Americans need a fuel that will give them more miles out of a gallon of gas and extend the lives of their cars — not one that will prematurely send their vehicles to the junkyard,” said Sensenbrenner in a statement. “The EPA is pursuing its own political agenda at the expense of American consumers. I have contacted EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson with these responses, and given the negligible environmental benefits, I await her defense of this unwise decision.”

On Thursday the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee will hold a hearing examining the science of E15.