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NREL Debunks 15% Ethanol Blend Car Damage Claims

NELThere is no evidence that engines that use gasoline with a 15 percent ethanol component will experience engine failure, according to a report conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association.

Review and Evaluation of Studies on the Use of E15 in Light-Duty Vehicles found that the available literature did not show any “meaningful differences” between a 15 percent ethanol blend, or “E15,” and a 10 percent blend, or “E10,” in “any performance category.”

Most gasoline sold in the US today is E10. Oil industry groups American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) have said that in blends greater than 10 percent — such as E15 — the ethanol renders the blended fuel “incompatible with today’s engines, vehicles and the multi-billion dollar infrastructure” in the US.

The NREL findings contradict those of Coordinating Research Council’s engine durability study, published earlier this year. The API- and automaker-funded study found mechanical damage in two recent-model car engines that were run on E15. The study caused controversy when it was released in the wake of the EPA approving the E15 fuel blend for US use.

The objective of the NREL review was to assess the research conducted to date applicable to the effects of E15 use in model year 2001 and newer vehicles, including the aspects that were not a part of EPA’s considerations when approving E15.

Specifically, NREL reviewed 33 unique research studies, as well as 10 related reviews, studies of methodology, or duplicate presentations of the same research data. Further underscoring EPA approval of the safety and efficacy of E15, NREL experts found that 2001 and newer vehicles are well equipped to adapt to the ethanol content in both E10 and E15.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, dismissed the CRC study as being “at the center of Big Oil’s political crusade against E15.”

Last week documents emerged showing that the EPA is considering slashing the amount of ethanol that must be blended into US gasoline next year. The proposal, if approved, would cut the 2014 volume of corn-based ethanol to about 800 million gallons less than this year’s limit of 13.8 billion gallons. The EPA has since tried to downplay the reports regarding the ethanol blend mandate.

Earlier this month, the API sued the EPA over the agency’s 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard. The API said that the rule mandates significantly more cellulosic ethanol than is available in the marketplace.

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