The U.S House of Representatives voted to block the EPA’s waiver to allow America’s gas pumps to carry E15, a 15% ethanol/gasoline mixture. Is this the end of America’s experiment with ethanol?

The votes crossed party lines with 286 representatives voting against 135 to stop the EPA’s granting of a wavier to allow gas stations to distribute E15. This is politics at their best, and shows what big business and the government alike think of the average American. The excuse for banning the wavier for E15 stems from a lack of “testing” the effects of E15 on people, the environment, and vehicles. Politicians and automakers alike are concerned that people driving vehicles that aren’t “approved” for E15 will unwittingly put this fuel in their car, damaging their engine, so on and so forth. Automakers, environmentalists, bakers, boat builders, and oil lobbyists alike have aligned to block the EPA from giving gas stations a waiver to sell E15 at their gas stations.

Now I’m no engineer, but I’m not sure another 5% of ethanol will make a difference in a majority of automobiles on the road today. Do automakers not realize that as of right now, they are filling up with E10? My gut feeling is that, unless you are driving a car that is 25+ years old, you don’t have anything to fear from E15. More then that, its not like the EPA was going to suddenly demand that every gas pump in America sell E15; it was merely going to allow those gas stations that wanted to sell E15 the legal right to do so. There are still idiots out there who feed diesel fuel to gasoline engines, and others who haven’t performed an oil change in 20,000 miles. In other words, yes, some American are idiots. But is E15 that big of a deal?

I don’t think ethanol alone can save us from our oil addiction, and converting food into fuel isn’t the best of ideas. However, every day progress is being made on converting inedible biomass into fuel, and bumping up our national fuel blend to E15 would mean we could import 5% less foreign oil and thus reduce our dependency on petroleum. Plus with NASCAR now running E15, the alt-fuel crowd could reach a largely untapped segment of the American population, the “NASCAR Dad” who may not be open to other alternatives, like EV’s or hydrogen, but would love to fill up with the same fuel as his favorite stock car driver (though NASCAR actually runs 110 octane racing fuel blended with 15% ethanol.) I am hoping this is just a temporary setback for ethanol. At the same time, this ruling is another nail in the coffin of the flagging American ethanol industry, with politicians and lobbyists alike hammering away at a very viable alternative to our oil dependency. It’s not perfect; every fuel has its drawbacks. But progress is being made and, quite frankly, anything is better then oil.

I’m just afraid that by the time Congress and the EPA get around to “approving” E15, there won’t be enough of an ethanol industry left to take advantage of it.

Source: Detroit News

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMI’s. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.