Vintage News

6/26/2013 - Supreme Court Rebuffs Challenge To E15 Fuel

Washington, DC - On the heels of a collector car rally at the Capitol to oppose EPA mandates to boost ethanol content in automotive fuel, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a challenge by automakers and oil producers to prevent a higher blend of ethanol in gasoline.

The court affirmed a Federal appeals court ruling that said trade groups for auto and fuel makers lacked legal status to challenge the lower court's decision. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute were among groups asking that the lower-court decision to allow expanded use of E15 (15% ethanol) for cars built since the 2001 model year be overturned. The conventional 10% ethanol blend is in wide use, but many drivers aren't aware of E15 and those with older cars may inadvertently use it in vehicles that can be damaged by the higher-alcohol fuel.

Last Wednesday, the Antique Automobile Club of America, American Motorcyclist Assn. and the SEMA Action Network joined in a rally to protest ethanol-blended gasoline, with a display of collector cars on the National Mall here while meeting with allies in Congress to lobby against ethanol fuel.

Tom Cox, president of the 62,000-member AACA, was quoted in Hemmings Daily blog saying, "There's a lot of reasons to be against E15...It creates vapor lock, it softens rubber parts, it eats up gas tanks and carburetors by causing them to rust and corrode, it pollutes more, and it gets less fuel mileage." He added, "...this constant ratcheting of the levels of ethanol in gasoline is in so many ways achieving the early vehicle retirement goals that we've seen come out of Washington before."

While there's no law forcing vintage car owners to pump E10 in their vehicles, it's becoming more difficult to find non-ethanol-blended fuels in the current retail marketplace, in which 90% of all gas sold contains ethanol. According to SEMA, ethanol increases water formation which then creates formic acid and corrodes metal, plastics and rubber, noting, "For classic cars that are infrequently driven, corrosion could eventually damage the engine, fuel line, fuel tank and exhaust systems."

The Supreme Court decision irked the oil refining industry, which has warned E15 can damage engines in boats, outdoor power equipment and older cars. Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers said in a statement, "The Supreme Court's decision...will have negative repercussions for consumers. It is unfortunate that EPA's decision to place politics ahead of science will stand."

Photo: Vintage cars assembled on the National Mall last week to rally against ethanol in gasoline (courtesy SEMA)

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