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E15 decision, Bon Appétit to Sustainability

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On Friday afternoon (Feb. 17), the Environmental Protection Agency gave its OK to increasing from 10 percent to 15 percent the amount of ethanol – most of it from corn – blended into the gasoline supply. Since older cars can’t safely use E15, that’s likely to become a nightmare for owners who fill up with the wrong fuel. Every major automaker has warned that millions of vehicle warranties will be voided if drivers fill up with E15, and many consumers will find themselves pulling into gas stations that could have as many as four pumps to choose from: one for widely used E10 (up to 10 percent ethanol); one for E15; possibly one for E85 (between 70 and 85 percent ethanol); and maybe one for old-fashioned gasoline. To help drivers choose the right one, Environmental Working Group’s analysts created an Ethanol Blends Guide and Fact Sheet. The analysis provides easy-to-use information about the new fuel.

“It is going to be extremely confusing and dangerous for consumers,” said Sheila Karpf, a legislative analyst at EWG. “If they make a mistake and put E15 into an older car or small engine, there’s a good chance they’ll ruin their engine and the manufacturer’s warranty won’t cover the damage.”

EPA’s decision to increase the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline by 50 percent greatly benefits corn- based Agribiz. But there’s no sign yet of a deluge of thank-you’s to the agency that’s endured months of politically motivated attacks from industrial agriculture and its friends in Congress.

Table Scraps:

- A Californian running for Congress defends his farm’s receipt of $4.7 million in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies in part by arguing that it helps him offset his taxes.

- The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is resisting calls from the feds to put the Gulf Dead Zone back on its list of imperiled waters. Officials there don’t want to pay for cleaning up the environmental disaster caused by farm runoff from states upriver such as Minnesota and Iowa (though Louisianans’ taxes help subsidize growers in those states). Meanwhile, conservation protections against erosion and chemical runoff are set to expire on 292,000 farm acres in Minnesota and Iowa, where lakes “are far dirtier now than they were before farming and development arrived,” according to a new study of 150 years’ worth of lake silt.

- South Dakota Sen. John Thune defends continued government support of agribusiness even in times of sky-high income and profits by saying that “regardless of whether crop and livestock prices are low or high, agriculture will remain risky.”

- The editorial page of the Register Guard in Eugene, Ore., writes today that “for far too long, the farm lobby has fended off reform of what amounts to a corporate welfare program of epic proportions.”

- One of the country’s biggest food service companies – Bon Appétit Management Company – announced today it is continuing to improve the sustainability of the food it serves by vowing that by 2015 it will “stop serving all pork produced using the cruel and inhumane practice of gestation crates and all eggs, including ‘liquid’ ones (those removed from their shells), from hens confined to battery cages.”

Key Issues: