Car buffs argue ethanol, the alcohol additive made from corn, hurts vehicles, while ethanol trade groups and corn producers say it is safe.

DETROIT — The presence of ethanol — an alcohol additive made from corn — in gasoline is hardly noticed by consumers.

"Most likely, you're getting ethanol everywhere you drive in the country," generally with 10 percent added ethanol, said Kirk McCauley, a spokesman for the Service Station Dealers Association of America.

Federal regulators leave it to the states to decide whether pumps must be labeled disclosing that they dispense fuel blended with E10 . About a dozen states don't require ethanol labeling on gas pumps.

Classic car buffs say 10 percent ethanol already in widespread use hurts their vehicles. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it's safe .

Periodically, when an old car breaks down or a chain saw or boat motor self-destructs, the owner blames ethanol-blended gasoline.

Trade groups for the ethanol industry and corn producers vigorously dispute such complaints, saying ethanol is safe for any new car and that, for older cars, parts can be adapted and fuel additives used during storage as safeguards.

The makers of engines and other parts side with classic-car owners and their mechanics.

"You can have people keeping a collector car in the garage, taking very good care of it, but the ethanol in there is corroding the vehicle," said Stuart Gosswein, senior director of federal government affairs for the Specialty Equipment Market Association, which represents manufacturers of racing and custom auto parts.

This year, the EPA approved allowing even more ethanol — a 15 percent mix. That proposal upset automakers and small-engine companies, who said that at 15 percent ethanol even newer cars and newer small engines would be damaged.

"We're basing our concerns on the cars that are on the road today," and on the corrosive effect that 15 percent-ethanol fuel could have on fuel pumps, fuel tanks, hoses and emissions parts, said Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group that includes the Detroit Three automakers and other manufacturers, including Toyota and Volkswagen. The alliance, along with other trade groups, sued the EPA in January to stop the introduction of E15.

Small-engine manufacturers are concerned about the effects on boat motors, chain saws and lawn mowers. Despite the lawsuit, the EPA approved the sale of E15, with labels, for vehicles made in model year 2001 and later.

That's drawing cheers from the American Coalition for Ethanol, a Washington-based trade association of ethanol producers and corn growers, who say ethanol is perfectly safe for cars and small engines sold today, and say it's boosting the economy by adding jobs in corn-growing states.

Foes of ethanol worry that E15 will become the norm in time and they won't be able to tell when they are buying it.

"The answer is not to stop this 15 percent ethanol, it's to get all of the ethanol out of gasoline," said classic-car mechanic Ed Syrocki, owner of EMS Classic Car Care in Warren, Mich.

Officials at the Renewable Fuels Association, representing the ethanol industry, said ethanol fuels can be safely used in old cars if owners adapt the fuel systems with new parts.

Association spokesman Matt Hartwig said the cost would "be minor in comparison to what (owners) would be willing to spend on the exterior of the car, for example."

source: usatoday


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