Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Automakers Urged to Research Higher Ethanol Blends

Senator Chuck Grassley ethanolAre automakers researching higher blends of ethanol for the autos?

That's the question one senator is asking domestic and foreign auto manufacturers.

Senator Chuck Grassley (IA) recently sent letters to six top automakers asking about their research efforts on higher ethanol blends.

These letters follow-up on efforts late last year, after Grassley and several colleagues urged President George Bush to begin testing higher blends of ethanol and gasoline.
“This is becoming even more important as we see the maximum market demand for E10 blends quickly approaching. Our national interest in cleaner burning fuels and energy independence requires cooperation between the public and private sectors,” Grassley said.
Letters were sent to Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. A separate letter was sent to Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen.
April 1, 2008


I’m writing regarding our nation’s efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and the need to increase the use of clean, home-grown renewable fuels. Increasing the use of renewable fuels like ethanol is good for the environment, good for rural America, and good for our national security.

I recognize that Chrysler (Ford, General Motors) has made a significant commitment to produce flexible-fuel vehicles. I commend you for those efforts. However, given the rapid growth in the renewable fuels industry, timely action needs to be taken to ensure the greatest possible use of alternative fuels in the near term.

The domestic ethanol industry is quickly approaching a level of production that will exceed the market demand for E10, or gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol. The E10 market could be saturated as early as 2012, or when production reaches 12 to 14 billion gallons a year. For this reason, a number of my colleagues and I wrote President Bush on the necessity to begin testing higher blends of ethanol and gasoline. We asked that the Environmental Protection Agency approve appropriate higher blends of ethanol in a timely manner following the necessary scientifically-based testing.

The results of a year-long study undertaken by the State of Minnesota and the Renewable Fuels Association on 20 percent ethanol blends was recently released. The study evaluated the effect and performance of gasoline blended fuels containing 20 percent ethanol on today’s automotive engines and components. Importantly, the study concluded that the higher ethanol blends did not cause problems for current motor vehicle equipment. They further state, “Based on the materials compatibility and drivability testing results of this scoping report, there are no issues that would prevent moving forward with the comprehensive testing required to certify E20 as a federally-approved motor fuel.”

When I visited Brazil in 2006, I saw first-hand non-flex fuel vehicles capable of running on gasoline with blends of 20 to 25 percent ethanol. Given that Chrysler (Ford, General Motors) sells automobiles in the Brazilian market, it seems your company could provide relevant, real-world data on the effects of intermediate ethanol blends in non-flex-fuel vehicles and engines.

Is Chrysler (Ford, General Motors) conducting research or doing testing on non-flex fuel automobiles with higher ethanol blends for the U.S. auto market? Does Chrysler (Ford, General Motors) have data or technical analysis on the effects of higher blends on materials, performance and emissions systems? Are you currently sharing your findings with the Department of Energy and the EPA that will help determine if today’s non-flex fuel automobiles are capable of operating on intermediate blends of ethanol? To what degree is Chrysler (Ford, General Motors) making available to the DOE and EPA findings on the compatibility, drivability and emissions results from Chrysler’s (Ford, General Motors) vehicle testing?

If we’re going to address the technical issues related to higher ethanol blends and decrease our dependence on foreign oil, it needs to be a cooperative effort between the public and private sectors. I hope to hear from you soon regarding your efforts to address the feasibility of higher ethanol blends in non-flex-fuel vehicles and learn of Chrysler’s (Ford, General Motors) efforts to share this information.

Thank you for your consideration and prompt reply.


Charles E. Grassley
United States Senator

Source: Senator Chuck Grassley

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