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Automakers Urge Caution in E15 Decision

January 19, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- A group comprising 13 vehicle, fuel and engine-related associations has urged government leaders to use extra caution in the upcoming decision on whether to permit the use of the E15 ethanol blend. 

A Jan. 6 letter, mailed to the EPA, Department of Energy and the White House, expressed concern that the EPA would base its E15 decision on "limited or inadequate data." 

The group that sent the letter includes the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers. 

A green light for E15 is strongly backed by the ethanol industry. 

However, the letter raised a number of objections to such a move in the near future. The letter cited research performed by the Mid-Level Ethanol Blends Research Coordination Group and concluded that further testing needs to be performed to fully determine the effects of higher ethanol blends in the U.S. market. 

The letter noted that current vehicle fuel pumps, level senders and associated fuel system components are not designed for exposure to mid-level ethanol blends. In addition, the letter stated, increasing the oxygen in fuel can adversely affect vehicle diagnostic tests and cause malfunction indicator lights from operating properly. Concerns were also raised about potential threats to engine and catalyst durability in some vehicles, the impact on vehicle drivability and fuel volatility, and the effects of long-term exposure to mid-level ethanol blend exhaust emissions on vehicles. 

"We urge EPA to base its decision on a complete and sound scientific record, and we urge DOE to help provide this science by spending all the $15 million targeted for expanding and accelerating mid-level ethanol blends research in the 2010 appropriations bill, as directed by Congress and signed by the President on October 28, 2009," the letter said. "Moreover, EPA should reopen the E15 waiver comment period to allow public review of new test data prior to making a final decision on the waiver request." 

The ethanol industry, of course, has a different perspective. Ethanol industry group Growth Energy has argued that approving the use of ethanol blended with gasoline up to 15 percent will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create more green-collar American jobs, increase the nation's energy independence and actually enhance vehicle performance. 

"Moving from our current E10 blend to E15 means we could reduce an additional 20 million metric tons of GHG emissions per year," Growth Energy stated. "That means using E15 instead of unleaded gasoline would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to removing 10.5 million vehicles from the road." 

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