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Thune Pushes for E20 Approval by US EPA

US Senator John Thune (R-SD) is urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin preparations for an expeditious review of an application to approve the use of E20 (20% ethanol and 80% gasoline) in automobiles. Senator Thune currently serves as the ranking member of the Energy Subcommittee of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Minnesota is preparing a waiver request for the EPA asking for approval to use E20. Thune wants the decks cleared for a timely review.

Given the importance of this impending request, and the required analysis involved to ensure that E20 does not impair the emissions control systems of vehicles, I urge the EPA to begin preparations now by reviewing any and all issues associated with such a waiver application. In the event you become aware of any legislative hurdles that may need to be addressed in this process, I ask that you inform my office as soon as possible.

—Letter from Senator Thune to EPA Administrator

Presently, roughly half of all gasoline sold in the United States includes 10% ethanol. Thune is concerned that the ethanol industry will hit an “E10 Wall” in the next two to three years if gasoline with a higher ration of ethanol is not approved.

...the actualization of E85-capable vehicle production and E85 availability is not expected to keep pace with the rapid expansion of domestic ethanol production. According to the Congressional Research Service, approximately 99% of domestically consumed ethanol is E10 or blends of gasoline with up to 10% ethanol—while only one percent is consumed as E85.

Moving forward in certifying the use of E20 also paves the way for the future production and use of cellulosic ethanol to flow seamlessly into the marketplace, the Senator argues.


Max Reid

Yes, the Brazilians have been using E20 for a while and even planning to increase it to E23.

Time to bring in Ethanol fast and then it will be followed by Butanol.


Thune is concerned about hitting an E10 wall. I am concerned about the wall some will have to hit with higher food prices. We know that congress will continue to subsidize the ethanol producers. But who will subsidize me when I go to the grocery store and have to pay higher prices?

Joff Pentz

wah wah wah, tom - the world and it's needs don't revolve around you and other whiners.


^ That was a little harsh Joff.

It's true that food prices may increase. Given that (a) Americans eat far more meat than nearly any other country, (b) the meat consumed requires far more grain than if people had simply ate the grain, and (c) America is suffering from an epidemic of fat-assedness, I'm not too worried about any slight increases in grain prices if it means reducing our demand on petroleum.


Brewing food-grade corn into ethanol is not what I would call 'highest and best use', especially since the CO2 reduction is marginal at best, staple food prices (tortillas, not just beef) are increased and energy content of the resulting fuel is reduced. Food prices rise, your mileage goes down, corporate agriculture gets rich(er). Sounds like a winner to me.

Rafael Seidl

The thing is, just about all cars can deal with E10 without modifications to the fuel system. E20 would require a whole lot of retrofits, which are not available.

Car makers have already developed elastomer materials and fuel system components that can handle E85 so those are what you would use. For a new vehicle, FFV components add ~$100 to the manufacturing cost. The cost difference with solutions that can handle only E20 would be negligible. If the US Congress decides that more ethanol really is required for national security reasons, it should therefore point blank mandate E85 compatibility for all new gasoline-powered vehicles starting in e.g. 2012.

For legacy models, manufacturers would have to design and manufacture parts of the appropriate geometry plus develop installation procedures and training for mechanics. Since virtually no-one is going to voluntarily pay for the installation of such FFV retrofit kits, government would have to force them to do so if such a kit is available for their make, model and year. No retrofit by an authorized technician, no extension of vehicle registration. To sweeten the pot, the initial VLF after the retrofit could be discounted.

Of course, the oil industry would need to continue delivering E10 for many years to come because there are a lot of vehicles on the road that will never be retrofitted. That means selling E20 requires gas station franchises to dedicate part of their infrastructure to yet another grade of gasoline. This will take some convincing, especially if diesel is to become an option as well.

Last and by no means least, it is worth remembering that domestic ethanol production is booming largely because of subsidies and import tariffs. Reduce those and the industry will grow more slowly. In that case, dependence on OPEC oil will decrease more slowly but transition costs will be much lower because retrofits can be avoided.


I think a lot cars can already handle e20 with minor ecu updates with maps for new fuel/air tables. I know I could get a new Map for my turbo subaru legacy gt in a week and use my cobb accessport to flash a real time map to handle E20. If I lived in the midwest I would do this now as high octane e20 is cheaper than the minimun 91 octane that my car requires. There are already open source ecu flashing groups working on many different car ecu's for modification



You don't need to remap the ECU to get a Subaru to run E20. In fact, I know from logging my Subaru that the ECU can compensate up to E35 without issues. It is after all only a 10% change in fueling.



Clearly, widespread retrofits are out of the question. I think most members of the government are aware of that. My surmise is that Senator Thune is of the opinion that most gasoline engines on the American road today can probably run on E20 without modification -- safely and over the long term. It is merely a question of determining if E20 will impair ancillary equipment -- such as emissions control devices -- when used in engines that were designed for pure gasoline.

I am aware of the fact that pure or near-pure ethanol blends such as E85 are damaging to engines that are not built with parts designed to stand up to its chemical properties. I cannot offer a learned opinion on how much milder E20 is, when compared to E85, but the clear implication in all of this is that there are plenty of people out there who think it is mild enough.

If you have specific data or reasoning which would suggest why E20 is sufficiently damaging to unmodified engines as to suggest disapproval, in light of the fact that E10 is good while E85 is bad, I would be more than happy to see it. The degree to which it increases damage is critical. Even if E20 is more damaging than E10, if the rate of decay caused by its presence in the fuel system is such that it would only be expected to reduce the useful life of whatever parts it attacks from 300,000 miles to 250,000 miles, it might be acceptable. After all, most cars are junked after 150,000 miles, at the most, and the theoretical decrease in useful life has, at that point, little practical effect (except to people like me who drive beat-up older cars, due to a lack of enthusiam for purchasing new ones).

Rafael Seidl

NBK-Boston -

increasing ethanol content does change the vaporization line and combustion velocity of the fuel, but for mild changes such as going from E10 to E20 these can indeed be handled by tweaking the engine control maps. You might also need to tweak the engine oil formulation to prevent problems in the crankcase due to the inevitable oil dilution by the fuel. There is usually no need to modify the hardware of the engine as such.

The real problem lies with the hoses and seals in the fuel system. Increasing ethanol content can cause those to swell and break and/or become porous. Over time, this creates a potential for fuel leaks and the associated fire hazard.

Biodiesel also presents elastomer compatibility problems, though generally less severe. Of greater concern is the generally high level of dissolved particulates, which could potentially scour the nozzles of modern high-pressure injectors. As always, check with your dealer or manufacturer before switching to any alternative fuel.

Spokane Walt

In general, most vehicles manufactured 1997 and beyond can take B99 (99% BioDiesel) without problems to the vehicle components. B20 is absolutely not an issue.

The biggest issue with B99, or any blend above B20, is that it cleans out all the crud from running Petroleum Based Diesel and tends to clog fuel filters.

Mark R. W. Jr.

Stomv, does PETA have you on retainer?


1) If corn ethanol is so great why is it being subsidized by $6 billion per year in the US alone ?

2) In fact, why are the subsidies per gallon of corn ethanol 90 times the subsidies for a
gallon of gasoline ? I am not for any subsidies.

3) 20% of U.S. corn is being converted into 5 billion gallons of ethanol that represents
only 1% of U.S. gas use ! If 100% of U.S. corn, ie, ALL our corn were converted
into ethanol, this would represent only 7% of U.S. gas use. What are your plans to reduce
daily gas use by 93% ? Are you prepared to tell everyone that there will be no corn left
for food ?

4) Why are the enormous environmental impacts of corn ethanol production not being taken into
account ?

5) Why do you keep ignoring that corn production causes more soil erosion than any other
crop grown ?

6) Why do you consistently ignore that corn production uses more nitrogen fertilizer than
any other crop grown ?

7 Why do you ignore that nitrogen runoff from the corn fields is the prime cause of the
dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico ?

8) Why do you ignore that corn production uses more insecticides than any other crop
grown ?

9) Why do you blatantly ignore that corn production uses more herbicides than any other
crop grown ?

10) Why do you ignore that more than 1,700 gallons of water are required to produce 1
gallon of ethanol ?

11) Why do you ignore that 6 to 12 gallons of sewage effluent are released per gallon of
corn ethanol produced ?

12) Why do you ignore that enormous quantities of carbon dioxide are produced, including
the large quantity of fossil energy used in production, large quantities of carbon
dioxide are released during fermentation, and when the soil is tilled soil organic matter
is exposed and oxidized ?

13) Why do you irresponsibly ignore that all the above speeds global warming instead of
reducing it ?

14)Why do you ignore that related to the total operation, including the burning of the
ethanol, the air pollution problem is significant ?

15) Why do you ignore that several published scientific papers form UC Berkeley & Cornell
University (not pamphlets printed by the DOE, USDA or corn lobby pundits after taxpayers money)
show that one burns 1 gallon of gasoline equivalent in fossil fuels to produce 1 gallon of gasoline
equivalent as ethanol from corn ?

16) Why do you ignore that when this corn ethanol is burned as a gasoline additive or
fuel, its use amounts to burning the same amount of fuel twice to drive a car once ?

17) Why do you ignore that the fuel efficiency of those cars that burn corn ethanol is
effectively halved ?

18) Why do you ignore that the widespread
use of corn ethanol will cause manifold damage to air, surface water, soil and aquifers ?

19) Why do you ignore that the overall energy balance of corn conversion to ethanol
demonstrates that 65% of the input energy is lost during the conversion ?

20) Why do you ignore that carbon dioxide sequestration by corn is nullified when corn
ethanol is burned, and there will be additional carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, and
sulfur oxide emissions from the fossil fuels used to produce the ethanol ?

21) What part of the above is not clear ?


Since our national target right now is less than 3% ethanol nationwide, statements like

"Presently, roughly half of all gasoline sold in the United States includes 10% ethanol."
are a bit misleading.

I would rather see the whole country get to E5 and then to E10 on cellulose ethanol than try for E20 some places based on corn.

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