Cars and Boats Fueled by Corn – Is this Back to the Future?

li2-blog-img_150x175by Libby Yranski, Policy Fellow, American Sportfishing Association
October 30, 2013

Ethanol is good for the environment right? Wrong! The ethanol-for-biofuel movement sounds like a great one, I myself liked it at first glance, but the more you understand it the more you realize it’s not good for anglers, the environment or consumers in general.

Some in the media have told us that gasoline blended with ethanol will lead to lower gasoline prices and a nation that will not be dependent on foreign oil and fossil fuels. However any money saved with lower gasoline prices will instead be going to engine repairs or replacements when the blended gasoline destroys my car engine, my boat engine and any other small engines I have – like my lawn mower. Blended gasoline is most commonly known as E10, which is 90% gasoline and 10% ethanol. E10 is already causing major problems to small engines, and now higher blends are being pushed into the market. Just a five percent increase in ethanol can cause catastrophic problems; this blend is known as E15 which is 85% gasoline and 15% ethanol. E15 exacerbates the problems caused by the current E10 blends including causing engines (car, boat or smaller) to burn at a higher temperature, which are high enough to ruin the engine or cause it to blow up. Many of the large automobile manufacturers realize this and will void engine warranties due to E15 damages, even on the newer engines that are supposed to support E15 gasoline.

While engine issues are a major concern, the environmental effects of increased corn production that will result from E15 are equally as distressing. A few months ago a study was released showing the connection between agricultural chemicals and the increased area of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The dead zone is expected to be roughly the size of Connecticut and can grow as large as the state of New Hampshire. That’s an area over 8,500 square miles large and twice the size it normally is. Now why am I bringing this up? That’s 8,500 sq. miles of area in which fish cannot physically survive – that’s a lot of habitat! The chemicals used in maintaining corn can account for over fifty percent of the chemicals leading to the dead zone. Not only will these chemicals not support fish but they can actually increase the toxicity in algal blooms effectively killing off even more fish and causing negative health effects on humans. In addition to this impact, grain-based ethanol production puts more acreage in row crops, requires more water, usually from irrigation, and in the end requires much more energy to produce. In fact, I’ve heard it estimated that it requires roughly one barrel of gasoline to produce one barrel of ethanol. Where is the savings?

KeepAmericaFishing is against the ethanol-in-gasoline movement because of the negative repercussions to both aquatic and terrestrial habitats, as well as consumer damages to boat, automotive and small engines. We hope that you too can take action to protect the fish habitat that is needed to keep our fishing healthy! Please visit our ethanol action page to tell your Congressional members to prevent higher ethanol blends at the pump.