Opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is steadily increasing on Capitol Hill. Car enthusiasts concerned with the high costs and dangerous impacts of the RFS are calling on Congress to readdress the policy that forces more and more ethanol into U.S. gasoline, in particular 15 percent ethanol content in gasoline (E15).
This week, America’s antique car owners and motorcyclists shared their concerns with higher ethanol blend fuels and the damage they cause engines during the E15 “Fuel for Thought” Rally on the National Mall.
The RFS allows the EPA to annually increase the amount of biofuels from corn and other biomass to be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply—36 billion gallons by 2022—and to set aggressive blending targets for advanced biofuels not yet available on the market. This government mandate continues despite the fact that our nation’s infrastructure is incapable of utilizing gasoline blended with more than 10 percent ethanol (E10).

The growing amounts of ethanol blended into the U.S. gasoline supply can cause premature engine damage from condensation and result in corrosion, rust, clogging, and deterioration of fuel-system components. Most new vehicles are constructed with materials that resist ethanol’s potentially harmful properties when small concentration of the biofuel are used, such at 10 percent ethanol by volume (E10). Older cars and current high-performance specialty parts are not protected.
The EPA’s decision to allow E15 into the marketplace would impact every American who owns a car not to mention motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), lawnmowers, boats and snowmobiles. According to the American Automotive Association (AAA), 95 percent of consumers remain unaware of what the fuel is and the damage it can cause.
Although the EPA has approved E15 for 2001 and newer vehicles, top automakers are also aware of the damage ethanol can cause and advise owners not to fill their new vehicles with the fuel. Domestic and foreign automobile companies have warned that E15 use may violate of warranty terms, leaving customers are responsible for costly repair bills.
As ethanol blending requirements escalate in the coming years, our nation will increasingly be forced to grapple with the negative consequences of the RFS. Until Congress takes decisive action to protect Americans and their engines from the impacts of higher ethanol blends, the message from auto enthusiasts will be clear: “hit the brakes on E15.”
Steve McDonald is vice president, government affairs, Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA)