SEMA eNews Vol. 15, No. 14, April 5, 2012

SEMA Opposes EPA Action to Allow E15 Despite Continuing Threat of Automobile Damage

SEMA continues to oppose decisions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to permit the sale of gasoline containing 15% ethanol (E15). The EPA has previously granted waivers to market the fuel for model-year 2001 and newer vehicles, despite industry concern that it poses a risk to older vehicles and certain high-performance specialty equipment of any age. The EPA has now begun approving E15 registration applications, the next step to permitting the fuel to be sold commercially. 

SEMA opposes the sale of E15 based on scientific evidence that it causes corrosion with incompatible parts. Ethanol increases water formation, which can then create formic acid and corrode metals, plastics and rubber. Ethanol also burns hotter and can cause some engines to stall, misfire and overheat. 

The EPA’s decision to permit the sale of E15 for newer vehicles was based on limited scientific research. SEMA supports federal legislation (HR 3199) that would direct the National Academies to conduct a comprehensive assessment of E15 and E20 gasoline. Under the bill, the research would include an evaluation of the safety, durability and performance effects on engines and related equipment for motor vehicles and boats. 

The EPA agrees with SEMA that E15 poses a risk to an estimated 74 million pre-2001 vehicles in the marketplace, including many collector cars. SEMA opposes the EPA’s solution, which is simply to require a gas pump warning label and make it “illegal” for the consumer to fuel the vehicle with ethanol-blended gasoline. The EPA makes it the vehicle owner’s responsibility to understand the potential threat posed by E15. The EPA does not provide immunity to gas stations, automakers or others in the market from lawsuits if a consumer alleges equipment failure from E15. 

SEMA will continue to oppose E15 until there are conclusive scientific findings that demonstrate that it will not harm automobiles of any age as a result of corrosion or other chemical incompatibilities. SEMA represents thousands of companies that market products for these vehicles and, through its SEMA Action Network, millions of enthusiasts who buy and operate these automobiles. 
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