New tests raise questions about E15

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The marine industry's opposition to the distribution of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol received a boost this week.

Engine durability tests by the Coordinating Research Council, which studies the interaction of engines and petroleum products, found leaks from uneven valve seat wear and pittage in two of eight 2001-09 vehicle engines run for 500 hours on an E15 fuel blend, the organization supported by the American Petroleum Institute and automobile manufacturers said.

The news was in an article published Wednesday at the Oil & Gas Journal website that was retweeted earlier this morning by National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich from GasBuddy.com.

The NMMA and other industry groups oppose E15, saying it can too easily find its way into boat and other engines for which it was not designed. Studies have shown that E15 can harm marine engines.

“There are a minimum 5 million engines on the road today with characteristics similar to the ones that failed,” API president Jack N. Gerard told reporters during a teleconference on Wednesday. “It’s not like we’re talking about prospective application. We’re applying this to the fleet that’s on the road today. We believe our estimate is conservative.”

The test results confirm that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prematurely approved E15 for use in 2001 model year or newer cars and light trucks before the Coordinating Research Council could complete its tests, added Michael J. Stanton, president of Global Automakers, and Mitch Bainwol, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

“Policy goals are being advanced by putting consumers at risk,” Bainwol suggested. “Now we have material evidence that validates our concern.”

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