By Lara Kimbrell of The SNSPost
Pulling up to the pump at your usual gas station will soon offer more choices. You may see fuel choices of E10, E15, E85, and pure gasoline. The fuel choices of the future are going to contain more and more Ethanol, or corn-based alcohol. You may think this is a better choice than relying on pure fossil fuels, but before you make the switch there are a few things you should know.
The Right Fuel For Your Engine
Filling up with E15 in an older car will most likely cause big problems with your engine. Two studies by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have found that E15 may cause valves to crack, certain air emissions to increase, engine temperatures to rise and fuel efficiency to fall. Put it into your lawnmower and be prepared to buy a new one. Automakers and small engine manufacturers are so upset that they are suing EPA over the E15 decision.
All major vehicle manufacturers have stated that use of E15 will void the warranty of your vehicle. Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota all agree that engines were not designed to use the highly corrosive E15 citing that the higher temperatures can cause engine failure. To avoid the chance of mis-fueling, the EPA has proposed a new label for the higher ethanol fuels. The Environmental Working Group proposes different labels due to the inadequacy of warning against misuse in the EPA labels.
In early 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency approved the corn ethanol industry’s petition to increase the amount of ethanol that can be blended with gasoline. EPA approved E15 for use in newer cars and trucks – Model Year 2001 or later. That’s a 50 percent increase in the amount of ethanol allowed in the widely available E10. Higher ethanol fuels produce increased nitrous oxide and formaldehyde emissions, lower gas mileage and damage to fuel tanks and pumps.
According to EWG, 40 percent of today’s corn crop in America is used for ethanol production. This has a list of unintended environmental consequences as well as causing rising grocery bills. To meet the demand and take advantage of high corn prices, the amount of farm land dedicated to corn has expanded from 80 million acres to 92 million acres. Because corn is one of the most energy intensive crops, more water, fertilizers and pesticides are being used. Corn is being grown exclusively instead of rotating with soil enriching crops such as soybeans and wheat. This is depleting the soil of necessary nutrients setting farmers up for even less production and more energy hungry resources to be used. Runoff from fertilizers causes a major problem for our fresh water supply. Experts estimate that U.S. municipalities spend $4.8 billion per year to remove nitrates from drinking water supplies; about $1.7 billion of that spending is traceable to runoff from agricultural fertilizers.
Wetlands, pastures, waterways, and even golf courses are being tilled up to grown corn. It is the gold rush of the mid-west. However producing ethanol is a very dirty business. Most of the ethanol refining plants are coal operated. Studies by the EWG show that these facilities also emit large amounts of air pollutants that contribute to cancer, asthma and respiratory infections. By many estimates, current ethanol production systems may actually emit more greenhouse gases than gasoline. And a recent National Research Council report found that producing corn ethanol uses significantly more water than making gasoline.
Corn ethanol is not an environmentally friendly solution to our dependence on oil. Introducing E15 is a decision that is setting up consumers to enable the current cycle of diverting corn production from food to fuel while harming engines and the environment. All in all, it is a strike out for the EPA. You can get a great little pocket guide to the new fuels here to guide you through the coming buffet of fuel choices. Choose with care.
Lara Kimbrell, AKA GreenTXmom & Physicschick, is a wife & mother to three precious little boys. Her family is her whole world & inspire her in so many ways. Also a regular contributor to The SNSPost & a published childrens author, she’s a physicist w/ a degree from Texas A&M & taught H.S. physics for years. She became interested in environmental health due to her oldest son’s asthma & inspired by her curious children she writes to engage all children in the amazing world of physical sciences.