A U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the scientific, technical and consumer impact of gasoline with 15% ethanol (E15). The hearing focused on the potential negative impact of E15 on engines, components and fuel-delivery systems.
According to the Specialty Equipment Market Association, ethanol absorbs water, which can then create formic acid and corrode metals, plastics and rubber. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows use of E15 in 2001 and newer vehicles, but agreed to make it “illegal to fuel pre-’01 vehicles” with E15.
Hearing witnesses included representatives from the American Automobile Association, American Motorcyclist Association and the Coordinating Research Council, which recently issued a report documenting the detrimental effects of E15 on fuel system components.
AAA voiced concern over the likelihood of misfueling due to lack of consumer education on the availability and hazards of E15. A recent AAA survey reveals "a strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage as a result of the EPA’s recent approval of E15 gasoline."
The Congressional panel identified the potential for warranty denials, motorist liability and lack of proper labeling as three critical issues making the introduction of E15 to the marketplace premature before further testing and education is completed.
The House Science Committee will soon consider a bill (HR 875) introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner directing the National Academies to conduct a scientific assessment on how gasoline blended with 15–20% ethanol (E15 and E20) may impact gasoline-powered engines, vehicles and related equipment.
The analysis would consider a variety of issues, including tailpipe and evaporative emissions, impact on OBD systems, materials compatibility and fuel efficiency. The National Academies would have 18 months to conduct its analysis, during which time sales of E15 gas would be halted. The Committee passed a similar bill last year but no further action took place.