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Ethanol as Fuel for Cars

July 29, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a blend containing higher amounts of corn-based ethanol for fuel in cars.

The decision green-lights a blend of up to 15 percent ethanol for cars and light-duty trucks manufactured between 2001 and 2006 – about 62 percent of vehicles. EPA regulations previously restricted ethanol content in gasoline to 10 percent.

“Recently completed testing and data analysis show that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks,” EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement Friday. “Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America’s vehicles, this administration takes those steps.”

While the ethanol industry vaunted the decision, critics argued that the new regulations could be confusing for drivers of older cars. The Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group against ethanol, claims many service stations will choose not to offer the higher blend to avoid the expenses of new pumps and signs.

“It seems like corn growers and the ethanol industry are the only real winners here,” said Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group, according to The Associated Press.

Ron Skjonberg, a senior vice president of ethanol manufacturer Poet, suggests some of the problems can be solved by the introduction of “blender pumps” that allow customers to turn a dial to select the level of ethanol. Such a system would also allow drivers of the rare cars that run on 85 percent ethanol to have easy access to that blend, the New York Times reports. Few gas retailers outside the Midwest offer E85 fuel.

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