Wednesday, March 5, 2008

E20 Blends

Research released today from the University of Minnesota has indicated that blends of 20% ethanol (E20) has no detrimental effect on performance or maintenance of cars and is safe to use in non flex-fuel capable cars. The tests were done on 40 models of cars over a 1 year period that tested performance and wear on components of the engine prone to problems in high-ethanol blended gasoline when used in non flex-fuel engines. The same group is still working on tailpipe emissions and fuel economy studies from these cars to see if they duplicate an earlier study by South Dakota State University that found blends of E20 or E30 actually increased mileage in non flex-fuel cars even with the decreased energy density in ethanol.
The key to this study from the U of Minnesota is that E20 seems to be safe for cars. Minnesota as a state has mandated that 20% of its gasoline be composed of ethanol by 2013, whether the blend comes from using E10 and E85 or from using E20 in all gasoline. However, in other states and particularly in order to get the whole nation on board, I think the big automakers such as Ford and GM should conduct the same tests on each of their new models. Once they get the results, they should sign off on each new car produced and include the warranty up to E20. Until they do this, I fear that the U of Minnesota will be nothing more than an interesting read for those that might have the courage and ability to put E20 in their tanks. Over the past few hours the internet sites devoted to ethanol have been full of comments saying that Minnesota studying E20 feasibility is foolish since much of the nation is not exposed even to E10. I disagree. I think that in the Midwest, going to E20 when we know it is a safe fuel for current non flex-fuel vehicles will allow more of the region to use the ethanol produced in our backyard and reduce the strain on transportation that the industry is experiencing. If Minnesota wants to go E20, this study has said that it is safe and I say more power to them. Hopefully more research will go into this aspect of the ethanol debate so that more states can join with Minnesota to encourage the usage of this environmentally friendly, domestic fuel.

Here is a link to a summary of the Minnesota report:

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