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AAA Says EPA Should Hold off Upping Ethanol Percentages in Gasoline

By KBB.com Editors on July 24, 2009 10:52 AM

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has weighed in on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) review of the Growth Energy waiver application, stating that far more unbiased and objective research is needed before it should even consider allowing an increase in the amount of ethanol permitted to be blended into conventional gasoline.

In a letter to the EPA, the AAA's Managing Director of Government Relations, Jill Ingrassia, outlined the organization's key concerns, noting: "Ethanol rates of 10 percent have been tested to work within the design parameters of modern engines and engine systems. In fact, all recently manufactured, gasoline powered, vehicle systems have been designed to be compatible with E10. However, that is not the case for E15. Increasing the ethanol content by 50 percent is likely to impact at least some engine systems. The potential impact could range from simple driver inconvenience, to increased exhaust emissions, reduced catalytic converter life and catastrophic engine system failure."

Specific areas of concern listed in the AAA brief included the potential for raising oxides of nitrogen (NOx) levels due to leaner air/fuel mixes and the resulting higher combustion temperatures, reduced fuel efficiency, poor cold starting and drivability, accelerated wear on components like the fuel pump and injector seats due to the reduced lubricity of the E15 blend, shortened catalytic converter life and the potential to have the elevated level of ethanol impact manufacturer warranty and service agreements.

AAA Vice President of Public Affairs Kathleen Marvaso summed up the position by observing: "While AAA supports the integration of alternative fuels into the nation's fuel supply, additional data is needed on the potential impact associated with the use of E15 gasoline over time on the country's vehicle fleet."