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Ethanol industry questions validity of CRC E15 study

By Erin Voegele | January 29, 2013

The Coordinating Research Council has released a report outlining fuel test results that show E15 fuel can damage fuel system components. Representatives of the ethanol industry, however, are questioning the testing methods, noting that the CRC seems to be displaying a bias against ethanol. The report is titled “Durability of Fuel Pumps and Fuel Level Senders in Neat and Aggressive E15". The American Petroleum Institute is a “sustaining member” of the group.

The analysis looked at two types of E15—a regular E15 blend and an “aggressive E15”—in addition to E10 and regular gasoline. According to the report, the aggressive E15 blend was formulated refereeing the SAE specification J1681 to represent the worst case blends of gasoline and 15 volume percent ethanol that might be found in the field.

However, Kristi Moore, vice president for technical services at the Renewable Fuels Association, questions the validity of testing the aggressive E15 blend. She said that the test fuel formulation has zero real world relevance in today’s marketplace as it is representative of fuel dating back to the 1990s. “Fuel properties have significantly changed in the three decades since the original aggressive test formula,” Moore continued. She also specified that the CRC seems to have ignored its own 2009 finding that the primary fatal effects to fuel systems can be attributed to the sulfur content of fuels.  

Bob Reynolds, president of Downstream Alternatives, also stressed the results for CRC’s aggressive E15 formulation are not representative of fuels on the market today. In addition, he noted that the report does not specify whether or not the CRC completed the testing with fuel containing the corrosion inhibitors his industry typically adds to ethanol.

The Fuels America Coalition has also spoken out, questioning the validity of the report. “Today’s report from oil-lobby backed research group Coordinating Research Council displays clear bias and ignores millions of miles and years of testing that went into EPA’s approval of E15,” said the coalition in a statement. “CRC’s bias is clear—API is a “sustaining member” of the group—and so it’s no surprise that the CRC is negative about E15. They’re playing right in to API’s misguided ploy to overturn the renewable fuel standard (RFS).”

Ron Lamberty, senior vice president for the American Coalition for Ethanol, said that the test results should not scare consumers away from using E15. “This is just another ghost story, told by people who stand to lose market share when consumers finally have access to E15. We shouldn’t be surprised at Big Oil’s latest attempt to scare consumers—they’ve shown no shame in twisting test results to protect their market share. There is a reason that the oil companies don’t want E15 and it has everything to do with protecting the bottom line and nothing to do with protecting consumers,” he continued.

The RFA has also called the study flawed and misleading. “API has absolutely no credibility when it comes to talking about E15,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “That point has never been more clear than in this new study in which they ‘cooked the books’ by using an aggressive fuel mix to try and force engine damage.  This isn’t real testing and this certainly isn’t real life.  Enough already with the scare tactics.  E15 is rolling forward and API needs to get out the way of progress that will result in a stronger country, a stronger economy, and stronger, cleaner environment.  E15 will not be stopped by feet dragging and forecasts of fictional faults.”

“Today’s study is no surprise,” said Tom Buis, Growth Energy CEO. “This is a classic example of ‘he, who pays the piper, calls the tune.’ Oil companies are desperate to prevent the use of higher blends of renewable fuels. They have erected every regulatory and legal roadblock imaginable to prevent our nation from reducing our dependence on oil. For Big Oil, this is about market share. To see what’s driving them, ‘follow the money,’ as every gallon of renewable fuel that enters the market reduces Big Oil’s market share. Obviously they have deep pockets in which to fund studies that can at best be described as incomplete and cherry picking.”