Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



With an end to winter finally in sight, the last thing drivers want to hear is that their vehicles are facing a new risk out on the roads. Unfortunately, that’s the case, as a broken federal policy known as the Renewable Fuel Standard is forcing more and more ethanol into the U.S. gasoline supply, despite harmful effects on engines.

Enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2005 and expanded in 2007, the standard was touted as a “green” solution to rising gasoline demands and foreign oil imports.

But since its inception, it’s been revealed that ethanol isn’t nearly as environmental friendly as once thought. Its production is depleting water supplies, tearing up conservation lands for conversion to farmland and resulting in higher greenhouse gas emissions.

What’s more, gasoline demand has slowed due to fuel efficiency improvements and a slow economic recovery, and the United States is quickly on its way to energy independence, resulting in oil imports falling to their lowest levels since 1986.

With gasoline demand dropping and the amount of ethanol that must be blended into the fuel supply increasing, the United States fuel market is at its breaking point. Because of the Renewable Fuel Standard, gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol (E10), which is suitable for most vehicles on the road, will soon need to be replaced by E15 — a 50 percent increase in the ethanol level that millions of vehicles on the road (not to mention small engines such as those in motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles, mowers and power equipment) aren’t designed to handle.

Higher levels of ethanol can have detrimental effects on vehicle engines, causing corrosion, rust and deterioration of fuel system components, placing the more than 3 million motorists on Oregon roads at risk.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), 95 percent of cars are not designed to run on fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol. Nonetheless, the EPA deemed E15 safe for use in vehicles manufactured in 2001 and later, even as studies show that these newer cars are still at risk.

To make matters worse, most Americans do not know what E15 is, leaving them susceptible to putting the wrong fuel in their vehicles.

Ford is just one of several vehicle manufacturers that advise against fueling with E15, regardless of when the vehicle was manufactured, and whose manufacturer warranties do not cover damage caused by ethanol blends higher than E10. Is it fair that federal policy will leave Oregonians on the hook for costly repairs directly resulting from ethanol use?

The cherry on top is that ethanol-blended gasoline costs consumers more at the pump. Ethanol contains 33 percent less energy per gallon than regular gasoline, so higher ethanol fuel blends like E15 deliver lower fuel economy, requiring more fill-ups and costing drivers much more over time. As the level of ethanol in our gasoline supply increases, the costs will only rise.

Engine damage, increased spending and potential danger to the more than 3 million Oregon motorists on the road are just some of many sordid consequences of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

If the EPA is actually concerned about reducing gasoline consumption, it should repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard and pursue more effective means to achieve higher fuel efficiencies rather than placing our motorists and consumers at risk.

Bess Wills is general manager of Gresham Ford.

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