A 50-percent increase in alcohol content may knock even the most seasoned drinker off of his (or her) feet, but a 50-percent jump in ethanol won't throw off a car's engine. That's the short version of a new National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report, and we expect pro-ethanol advocates to use it frequently against Big Oil and its efforts to roll back increased ethanol mandates. The caveat, of course, is that the NREL study was sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), so we understand if some will question the objectivity.
The RFA, of course, highlighted the NREL's finding that there were no "meaningful differences" in the performance of engines running on a 10-percent ethanol blend (i.e. E10, which is standard-issue in the US) and a 15-percent blend (i.e. E15). Using 43 studies as a base, the NREL surmised that, when it came to engine performance and durability in light-duty vehicles that were made after the 2000 model year, E10 and E15 are basically the same thing.
Big Oil has been squawking about the potential dangers of E15 since last June, when the EPA officially approved public distribution of E15 at US service stations. E15 is not widely available yet, but it is expanding. So brace yourself for another response from Big Oil. In the meantime, the RFA has a link to the NREL report here.