The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a request to allow oil refineries to sell ethanol-free gasoline. The request was sent to the EPA last week by the governors of five oil producing states: Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
The majority of fuel sold in the United States is blended with 10% ethanol, known as E10. This practice began in 1978 with the Clean Air Act, and expanded dramatically in the 2000s. As of 2016, approximately 95% of fuel sold in the US has an ethanol blend of up to 10%.
The E10 requirement has been controversial from the start, pitting the oil industry against agricultural interests. Oil producers hate giving 10% of their potential profit to the ethanol industry. Cattlemen hate paying higher prices for feed. Corn farmers love high corn prices, and all politicians love farmers, regardless of party affiliation.
Demand for gasoline has fallen by 30 percent or more during the Covid-19 crisis, causing the price of oil (and gasoline) to plummet. Both the oil industry and ethanol producers are facing reduced income.
From an environmental standpoint, there is significant evidence that E10 (and E15, and E85) are a net negative for the planet. Here are two articles, both from the Yale School of Forestry, arguing each side: Yale School of Forestry: The Case Against More Ethanol Yale School of Forestry: Should Green Critics Reassess Ethanol?
Ignoring the financial, political and environmental wrangling, ethanol has a direct effect on motorcyclists: corrosion.
Ethanol is hygroscopic, which is a fancy way of saying that it absorbs water from the atmosphere. This isn’t a problem for modern cars which have fuel systems that have been specifically designed to deal with ethanol. Besides the specialized fuel systems, cars generally have fresh tanks of gasoline run through them at regular intervals.
A motorcycle faces a different problem than an automobile. It is not unusual for a bike to sit for months at a time, giving moisture in the fuel a chance to form rust in your tank.
In addition to absorbing moisture, ethanol itself degrades rubber and plastic parts on older cars and bikes that weren’t designed for ethanol fuels. These problems seem to be especially prevalent on European bikes – ask a Ducati or KTM owner what they think about ethanol fuels.
Want ethanol-free fuel now? Go to Pure-Gas.org and see if there is a station near you.
Regardless of your personal political or environmental leanings, it is safe to say that your motorcycle will be happier without ethanol in the tank. The question is, will the EPA let it happen?
Want to learn more about ethanol in fuel? Here are a few articles:
More information on E10 can be found at the EPA’s website.
Have you suffered any ethanol related issues with your bike? Please share your experiences in the comments section below: