If you were a Congressional subcommittee and you were going to hold a hearing “Examining the Science Behind E15,” whom would you invite to testify? Would you invite some of the researchers that looked into how E15 and other mid-level blends work in automotive engines? Would you invite the ethanol industry to explain why they asked for a waiver so gas stations could offer E15 blends and what science they might have to explain their actions?
While these may seem to be logical organizations to invite to the table, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment decided to invite chicken lobbyists, environmentalists and Big Oil – each of whom have real or imagined concerns about ethanol itself at any level, the National Corn Growers Association said.
“The Environmental Protection Agency has been thorough in its work on the E15 waiver request and several outside researchers have been evaluating and analyzing E15 and other blends for a number of years,” said NCGA President Bart Schott. “While EPA will have someone there to testify, the remainder of those on the list of witnesses testifying have a long-standing history of being critical of corn-based ethanol at any level. This is an extremely unbalanced panel and it is easy to see why some consider this hearing to be a sham.”
Schott pointed out a growing body of research that not only defends the EPA’s decision to allow E15 as a fuel option for model years 2001 and newer, but looks at other blends and older cars.
“We support sound science and a transparent process,” Schott said. “That’s why we strongly support the EPA’s approval of E15 for motor vehicles – a fuel blend that has been thoroughly tested.”
In September 2010, for example, the automotive engineering firm Ricardo found that moving from 10 percent ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent will mean little, if any, change in the performance of older cars and light trucks, those manufactured between 1994 and 2000. This study analyzed the vehicles manufactured by six companies and that represent 25 percent of light duty vehicles on the road today, concluded “that the adoption and use of E15 in the motor vehicle fleet from the studied model years should not adversely affect these vehicles or cause them to perform in a suboptimal manner when compared with their performance using the E10 blend that is currently available.”
In a February 2009 report, Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy performed a peer-reviewed study regarding the effects of E15 and E20 on motor vehicles and small non-road engines. This research concludes that when E15 and E20 were compared to traditional gasoline, there are no significant changes in vehicle tailpipe emissions, vehicle driveability, or small non-road engine emissions as ethanol content increased.
An October 2008 report to the U.S. Senate on E20 ethanol research, prepared by the Rochester Institute of Technology, evaluated the effects of E20 on ten legacy vehicles. Initial results after 75,000 collective miles driven found no fuel-related failures or significant vehicle problems and documented reductions in regulated tailpipe emissions when using E20 compared to E0.
“This hearing pretends to look at the science behind E15,” Schott said. “We have a hard time understanding what makes the National Chicken Council or the Environmental Working Group scientific experts on the safety and efficiency of automotive fuels in modern internal combustion engines.”