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    House Subcommittee Hears Testimony Calling for E15's Suspension

    Experts tell lawmakers the alternative fuel can cause engine damage and breakdowns.

    By Brian Berk, Convenience Store News

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The sale of E15 at the pump is "premature and irresponsible," Robert Darbelnet, AAA’s president and CEO, stressed during a hearing today before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology's Subcommittee on Environment.

    The lack of adequate testing on engines; automobile manufacturer threats to void warranties on vehicles filling up with E15; and the fact that AAA research revealed that 95 percent of consumers do not know what the alternative fuel is are all reasons to suspend its sale, relayed Darbelnet.

    "Even the Renewable Fuels Association advises retailers not to put E15 in underground storage tanks due to potential dangers," he said. "Clearly, there is something there."

    The Coordinating Research Council (CRC), a non-profit organization that directs, through committee action, engineering and environmental studies on the interaction between automotive/other mobility equipment and petroleum products, also presented research on E15. Mike Leister, a member of its board of directors, testified that its research revealed two out of eight vehicles that fueled up with E15 suffered subsequent damage.

    "E15 can cause erratic fuel gauge readings, false 'check engine' lights and road breakdowns," Leister said during his testimony. "It did not occur in E10 or E0."

    Leister did acknowledge the CRC only tested a small number of vehicles, and several cars that utilized E15 had no subsequent problems.

    WHO'S RESPONSIBLE?
    Eighteen U.S. gas stations currently sell E15 at the pump, according to Darbelnet.

    Chris Stewart (R-Utah), acting chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment, explained that research shows that 35 percent of these stations do not label E15 properly at the pump, as required by the Environmental Protection Agency, which approved E15 for sale in June for vehicles manufactured in the model year 2001 or newer.

    "Who is liable for damage caused by E15?" Stewart asked.

    Darblenet responded that the liability should not lie with consumers. "Nobody else wants to accept liability," he added.

    As CSNews Online previously reported, Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and David Vitter (R-La.) introduced legislation last week aimed at overturning the EPA's waiver that allows E15 to be sold at the pump. Today, 37 groups, including several state dairy and meat organizations, sent a letter encouraging the two senators to move forward with the legislation, which would cap the ethanol content in gasoline at 10 percent.

    "The potential unintended consequences for millions of consumers and the environment have become all too clear," reads the letter, obtained by CSNews Online. "Your legislation is a common sense measure that will mitigate the effects of this ill-conceived [EPA] decision."

    Stewart noted during today's hearing that Democrats were given the opportunity to invite experts who would testify on behalf of keeping E15 for sale at gas stations, but they failed to invite anyone to offer that opposing viewpoint.

    Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, who did not take part in the hearing, issued a statement accusing the House committee of holding “biased hearings, refusing to invite ethanol stakeholders -- only critics."

    Buis added that the hearings are such a "sham" that the committee should be renamed the "Science Fiction Committee."

    “Consistently ignoring credible facts and extensive testing exemplifies the real agenda this committee is pursuing," he said. "Why, when gas prices have gone up each and every day for the last 40 days, would this committee want to deny consumers and retailers the voluntary choice of a less expensive, higher performing and cleaner renewable fuel? Congress can no longer ignore our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, continually pushing back against clean and sustainable fuel.”

    By Brian Berk, Convenience Store News
    • About Brian Berk Brian Berk is managing editor of Stagnito Business Information's Convenience Store News and Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner, where he specializes in covering motor fuels, technology and financial news. He has served the magazine industry for 14 years and has also worked in the radio and newspaper fields. Berk holds a bachelor's degree in communications from the State University of New York at Cortland and a master's degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

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