One major reason for concern is that modern cars sense the amount of oxygen in the exhaust and use that measurement to modify the fuel/air mixture going into the cylinders. This works fine for straight gasoline. But the ethanol molecule contains an oxygen atom, and that may confuse the sensor into making the mixture too lean; lean engines produce exhaust hot enough to damage catalytic converters, industry experts say, and may also produce more nitrogen oxides, an ingredient of smog.
“There’s a lot to worry about,” he said. “All a consumer has to do is look at the fuels section of the owner’s manual, which says that the use of fuel above 10 percent ethanol may result in denial of warranty claims.” ...
“What the ethanol people are asking the consumer to do is bear the risk. If only 1 percent of the vehicles on the road today had E15-related problems, that would be about 2.5 million vehicles.” ...
existing pumps are not certified by Underwriters Laboratories as safe for use with E15 — and U.L., which certifies the safety of a wide range of products, says it will not provide that certification.
John Drengenberg, U.L.’s consumer safety director, said previous testing showed that the existing pumps were safe for up to 15 percent ethanol. But U.L. will not guarantee them for 1 percent more, he said.
That means E15 certification cannot be given because there can be slight variations in the mixture of gas and ethanol, Mr. Drengenberg said — E15 might actually include 16 percent ethanol. “It cannot ever be said that this is exactly 15 percent.”
Furthermore, while U.L. says 15 percent ethanol would be acceptable, it cannot retroactively and officially certify the existing pumps for dispensing E15, a spokesman, Joseph Hirschmugl, said.
When it comes to ethanol, price, fuel economy and engine performance matter to lots of American drivers. The ethanol industry fights hard to shape public opinion of the fuel, and it has now found a new way to get its message across in a partnership with NASCAR.
For example, at a constant temperature of 100 degrees F and relative humidity of 100%, it would take well over 200 days to saturate one gallon of gasoline in an open gasoline can (assuming the only source of water is water vapor from the air).
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