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Oregon's engines, environment at risk because of U.S. ethanol policy

My son Bill and I own Bill's Old Fashion Service Station in Lake Oswego. A year ago, after much research, we emptied our tanks of ethanol-containing premium and filled them with clear or pure premium, no ethanol.

We were concerned about our customers and their vehicles. The nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires that increasing amounts of biofuel be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply despite the significant risks to marine, auto, motorcycle and smaller engines like those found in leaf blowers or snowmobiles.

Conceived in 2005 as a policy to cure the United States’ energy import woes and environmental concerns, the Renewable Fuel Standard cure has been worse than the disease. Increasing amounts of ethanol-blended gasoline have wreaked havoc on engines large and small, to the detriment of consumers’ pocketbooks and our environment.

According to the results of two studies from the U.S. Department of Energy, the use of gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol (E15) in marine engines can cause significant damage in outboard, stern drive and inboard engines. E15 use in boats can also cause fuel tank corrosion, oil and fuel leaks, increased emissions, and engine damage.

Autos face the same fate: ethanol-blended gasoline can corrode metals, causing rubber to swell and engines to break down more quickly. This is why the EPA only approved E15 for use in vehicles made in 2001 or later, and automakers including Chrysler, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Hyundai have said their warranties would not cover new vehicles that have been fueled with E15.

To make matters worse, ethanol contains 33 percent less energy per gallon than gasoline, meaning that boats and vehicles fueled with ethanol get fewer miles per gallon than those running on conventional gasoline.

And all this for what? The National Academy of Sciences reports that the production and use of ethanol is likely to increase air pollution. Additionally, ethanol production requires more water than petroleum-based fuels. It takes 170 gallons of water to refine one gallon of corn-based ethanol, compared to just 5 gallons of water to refine a gallon of gasoline. Corn-based ethanol nearly doubles greenhouse gas emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years according to researchers at Princeton and Iowa State University.

Our customers tell us their vehicles run better and get better gas mileage — and we think this is a better choice for our environment.

Amy Thurmond, of Portland, is a co-owner with her son of Bill's Old Fashion Service Station in Lake Oswego.



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