Free Markets, Free People


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?

~McQ

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12 Responses to Top down bureaucratic rule may mean big bottom up problems

  • I already can’t get a gas powered air blower to last more than a few hours of operation before the ethanol screws it up.

    • Consider the fact that now that the government owns so much of the car industry, they can use the EPA to promote the sale of new cars to replace those that don’t work on 15% ethanol.
      A few years ago, if GM had owned a stake in the oil companies, a move like this would have been contested in the courts as some sort of “conflict of interest” under the Sherman Antitrust Act.

      • The government has done this already.  They didn’t need to own GM to do it.  Leaded gas for one, E10 for another.  This would be #3 in a trend.

  • “oil companies are standing in the way only because they want to hold on to market share”

    As if the oil companies have a problem selling their product. If this was just  stupidity it would be amusing, but this is just an out and out self serving lie. 

  • The heavily subsidized ethanol industry says it’s just the oil companies trying to keep their share of the market:

    Yeah, that’s what we need– to promote an industry that requires ‘heavy’ subsidies in order to survive.  I guess the USPS isn’t draining away enough tax dollars.

  • right or wrong, same thing happened way back when they took the lead out of gasoline…
    But it did force the manufacturers to design their engines around the new status quo

    • Gimme an f’ing break.  There is no positive to adding ethanol to the gasoline mixture, 10% already screws with my mpg and now they want to increase it so that it no only has me getting 75% of the mpg I should be getting but eventually destroys my engine so that I have to buy an entirely new car?

      Can we get a class action lawsuit against the EPA or something?  This agency has to be stopped.

  • McQFor some car owners, “you will be walking, eventually,” Mr. Jones said.

    This is a three-fer for Uncle Sugar:

    1.  More walking is good for health, which reduces health care costs;

    2.  Fewer cars means less greenhouse gases which combats climate change;

    3.  Forcing people to buy more cars creates or saves jobs.

    / sarc

  • 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.

    Actually I wouldn’t expect the oil companies to object.  In small to moderate amounts, adding ethanol to their gasoline extends their limited production supply and enlarges their US marketshare.  They also get the subsidy checks to buy the ethanol, so essentially we subsidize the domestic based oil companies being able to take over more of the US gasoline market.

    GM and the other automakers, otoh, have warranty obligations that extend to emissions systems that last 10 years.  Hence the 2001 milestone.  By far at this level of ethanol, the oil companies make out and the auto companies experience the fallout.

  • Ethanol is a feel good policy that makes no sense.

    First, ethanol cost more energy than it provides.  Farmers must put down fertilizer, tend fields, harvest and transport grain to a distiller who makes it into alcohol.  All of these activities actually use energy.  I have seen various estimates from 0.75 to 1.5 times the energy the ethanol actually yields as a fuel.

    Second, a gallon of ethanol contains about 87,000 British Thermal Units (BTUs) while a gallon of gasoline has 125,000 BTUs.  I have a 15 gallon tank, so a 10% ethanol mixture would have 1.5 gallons of ethanol instead of gasoline.  Since ethanol yields a third less energy,  I’m losing 3% of my mileage per tank.

    Third, ethanol is made from food.  We eat food and so do farm animals.  When corn and other grain prices go up, so do food prices. 

    Finally, we are already damaging our engines.  Stihl, Husqvarna and other small engines are not designed to burn ethanol.  I’ve had problems with plastic fuel lines and clogged fuel filters.

    There are two words that caused the ethanol standards, “Iowa Caucus.”  It’s time to re look that decision.  I’m not opposed to ethanol, but we should be drinking it as scotch with just a wee drop of water.

  • Can’t we just sue the Government in a class action for monumental stupidity?

    I’ve had to rebuild all my small engines every couple of years or so (10+ units) because of 10% alcohol levels, I can just extrapolate the problems I’m going to have when 50% more alcohol is added. I already burn more fuel, & my equipment runs ratty, even in perfect tune. The producers of this world don’t have to be told what a load of crap alcohol fuel is, we live the nightmare. What the manufacturers tell me is that their hands are tied (rightly so) “because there is no predicting what stupidity the government will come up with next, so there is no point in committing to any new configuration or technology until the dust settles.”

    This is what happens when your elected “representatives” are so disconnected from reality (which includes doing actual labor), they neither know, nor care, what the consequences are of their decree.

    God help us.