October 28, 2010

How Much Ethanol Testing Is Enough?

I am sure that by this point most people have seen the 'Say no to untested E15' campaign that is being waged by the opponents of ethanol. As I pointed out in an earlier post, the calls for more testing for E15, at least for some of the groups involved, have little to do with science.

Since we know that testing on E15 has been taking place since at least 2007 (see earlier post), the issue in their eyes must not be that E15 isn't tested but that it hasn't been tested enough.

Being the inquisitive type, when I saw a user making a similar claim on twitter, I had to ask just how much testing would be enough. Here is how that exchange went.

HIM - Join me and tell President Obama no to untested #ethanol

ME - How much ethanol testing is enough?

HIM - Biofuels like ethanol produce carbon emissions as well as fossil fuels. Furthermore, ethanol interferes with food production.

ME - OK but that doesn't answer the question as to how much ethanol testing is enough.

HIM - The amount of testing required is that which demonstrates the point satisfactorily that ethanol is a bad idea.

ME - Thank You for your honesty

HIM - You are very much welcome for that.

This exchange took place in public but I haven't included the username of the person involved because this isn't about one person's viewpoint but instead about the message.

As the exchange points out for some no amount of testing will be enough unless it proves ethanol is a bad idea. But as we know the EPA has decided to allow the sale of E15 for 2007 and newer light duty vehicles. So at what point did the EPA consider that enough testing had been done? According to comments made by Senators after a meeting with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in August, after enough testing had been done for the decision to withstand legal challenge.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said Tuesday that additional testing of the engine effects from fuel with 15% ethanol was prompted in part because the EPA expects to be sued by opponents of E15.

"She needs plenty of evidence so they aren't successfully sued and overruled by the courts," Grassley told reporters.

The EPA expects a lawsuit challenging a higher level of ethanol by environmentalists, small engine manufacturers and the oil industry, Grassley said. He said the EPA doesn't think the courts are likely to issue a temporary injunction barring the sale of E15 if it's approved. So E15 could be sold while litigation goes ahead.

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