Top down bureaucratic rule may mean big bottom up problems
Despite the many problems cited with turning cereal grains into ethanol (price spikes, shortages, etc.) and a new study saying ethanol damages engines, the EPA is going ahead with plans to raise the amount of ethanol mandated in fuel mixes:
The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue a rule in the next few weeks that would permit oil companies to increase the percentage of ethanol in automotive fuel to 15 percent, up from the current level of 10 percent, so they can meet E.P.A. quotas for renewable fuels.
Like a true bureaucracy, the quota is much more important than the fact that increasing ethanol percentages could cause more pollution and damage car engines according to a new study:
But now the industry says it has conducted tests that confirm the higher-ethanol blend will cause problems in many cars.
Half of the engines tested so far have had some problems, said C. Coleman Jones, the biofuel implementation manager at General Motors, who spoke on behalf of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
More ethanol will confuse exhaust control systems and make engines run too hot, destroying catalytic converters, automakers say. It can also damage engine cylinders, they say.
For some car owners, “you will be walking, eventually,” Mr. Jones said. The industry is urging the E.P.A. to delay any changes to the fuel mix until after 2011, when more complete testing will be done.
The EPA’s answer?
An E.P.A. spokeswoman declined to discuss the E.P.A.’s specific plans beyond its November letter, in which the agency said it planned to make a decision by midyear. The agency said at that time that it was leaning toward allowing the change.
Bureaucratic inertia has set the ball in motion and facts simply don’t matter. And I loved this:
While the change is intended to apply only to cars of the 2001 model year and newer, it’s unclear how it would be enforced at the pump.
Heh … yeah, are we going to have 2000 and below model gas pumps now?
The heavily subsidized ethanol industry says it’s just the oil companies trying to keep their share of the market:
The ethanol industry argues that the proposed rule is essential for reducing reliance on imported oil. Ethanol makers say that most cars will run just fine on 15 percent ethanol and oil companies are standing in the way only because they want to hold on to market share.
Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said enough test data was available to approve the new blend. “You just see all this hand-wringing,” he said.
But it isn’t the oil industry objecting – it’s the auto industry saying such an increase will ruin engines. In fact, it’s Government Motors. And they have no particular skin in the game here – what is is.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve sunk a good bit on money in a new car recently. If this goes through and I end up walking because of it, who do I go see to recover damages?