Subsidizing Sabotage

There’s a move on to introduce a gasoline blend called “E15” in the US. This is a standard gasoline that is “blended” — “diluted with” or “cut with” would be a better term — with 15% ethanol. This, in theory, will cut emissions and reduce our dependency on foreign oil, as the ethanol is domestically-produced. The EPA has approved its use on a limited basis — which means that, shortly, it will be required to be offered by most gas stations.

And it’s yet another triumph of stupid-headed theory over simple reality.

The main limitation will be on engines newer than 2007. And despite the stunning success (sarcasm intended) of “Cash For Clunkers,” there are a LOT of older vehicles still on the road. (I drive one of ’em — Mongo II is an SUV of 20-century vintage.)

Popular Mechanics (not noted for political activism or hysteria) recently did a report on just how useful gasohol is as a fuel — and it’s not pretty. 

The makers of gasoline-powered home and yard equipment are already having enough trouble with the current “E10” blends — and don’t want anything to do with higher levels of ethanol.

And don’t even think of bringing up ethanol issues with certain owners of certain older vehicles — especially BMWs. They’ll be more than happy to give you an earful about how methanol corrodes certain key engine components — and how BMW warranties won’t cover damage from too-high methanol levels in gas.

And here in New Hampshire, we know all about federal meddling with gasoline blends “for our own good.”  We had a LOT of problems with MTBE leaking out of tanks not designed to hold it and seeping into groundwater, and the government to tell us to not worry about our drinking water smelling and tasting funny as a consequence. And we were far from the only state.

But all that doesn’t matter. Ethanol is politically palatable — more than it’s palatable to most cars.Its backers like the subsidies to buy it and use it, farmers like having the new market for their crops, and the green idiots only think about how it burns a skosh cleaner than straight gas.

That it tends to wreck the engines that burn it… well, you can’t make omelets without busting a few eggs. And people shouldn’t drive such old, inefficient cars or expensive, inefficient cars. Consider it a “sin tax” for those people for their conspicuous consumption and inefficiency.

(Hat tip: Rob Port)

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