If you are one of those with concerns over how the ethanol in some fuels affects your engine, then it may be getting worse soon. If you’re one of those who doesn’t care about ethanol, well now is the time to pay attention. Seriously.
In 10 days time,
at 11:45pm on 16th September, the British Government’s consultation on “E10 petrol, consumer protection and fuel pump labelling” closes. That means that you, me and the British public in general has 10 days to tell the Government that we don’t want them to increase the percentage of ethanol that goes into making up the petrol our vehicles use.
Why are they putting ethanol into petrol?
Unleaded petrol in the UK currently contains up to 5% bio-ethanol, a grade known as E5. E10 petrol contains up to 10% bio-ethanol and is not yet available in the UK but is widely used in France and a few other European countries.
The reasoning behind this is a view that bio-fuels are sustainable and so ethanol is produced using products such as sugarcane and corn to meet demands set by politicians. Interestingly, Brazil is apparently the world’s second largest producer of ethanol fuel, growing sugarcane to meet demand for around 25% of the world’s ethanol used as fuel.
What’s wrong with it?
In Brazil itself, they have been diluting their petrol with bio-ethanol for many years now, the limit set in 2003 to a minimum of 20% and a maximum of 25%. The lower limit was reduced to 18% in 2011 due to an ethanol supply shortage and price fluctuations spending on harvest.
And herein lies a problem that has nothing to do with fossil fuels, emissions, air-quality, reduced greenhouse gases or even the fact that ethanol in petrol has proved detrimental to many parts and components of motor vehicles. Farmers are turning to production of fuel-related crops at the expense of food. Just look at the amount of poverty in Brazil itself and work out for yourself what those poor people would rather is grown to an excess.
So if you care about world poverty, starvation and food shortages then it won’t take long to realise that if demand for bio-ethanol increases then more and more farmers will change their crops from food to the more lucrative fuel market. This in turn will make food scarcer and food prices rise. Indeed the EU are apparently proposing halving the ethanol production from bio crops, due to increasing food prices and world deforestation in order to try to grow more food crops.
Don’t worry if that’s all a bit deep for you because the other reason to object to a greater percentage of ethanol in petrol is that it has a detrimental effect on vehicle components. From oil seals to fibreglass fuel tanks, tank liners to fuel pipe, failures and disintegration have all been blamed on ethanol. Not only that but the hygroscopic properties of ethanol (which means it absorbs water) means that petrol with ethanol in it left standing in fuel tanks under petrol forecourts and in vehicles will become diluted the longer it’s left there, resulting in a different quality of fuel than that promised at the pump.
What can I do?
The Government consultation seeks feedback on proposals to ensure a continued supply of traditional E5 petrol for those motorists who will need it. The Government admits that while “Blending up to 10% ethanol into petrol, known as E10, could help deliver the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation more cost effectively…” that also “…the introduction of E10 petrol presents some challenges, particularly in relation to compatibility with older vehicles.” They even admit that it is not just the really old vehicle either but will also include, “a significant number of cars and motorbikes which are less than 25 years old and still regularly used.” That means even cars and bikes from the 1990s and early 2000s may not run on E10. Forget about Third World poverty, what about the little old lady up the road in the UK that relies on her old Ford Fiesta to get her pension and go to bingo once a week?
The best the Government can come up with is to propose the introduction of a ‘protection grade’ that requires larger filling stations to continue to stock the standard Premium 95 petrol in an E5 grade (95 E5). Note that is only there larger stations, which means those living in more remote areas are likely to find it very hard to find such fuel. This of course is likely to be the thin end of another wedge that will see E5 eventually phased out, leaving us no choice other than deal with extra ethanol in our fuel. Indeed the proposed extension of the protection grade will expire in January 2021.
With the deadline looming we must all follow the link below, read the consultation, download the response form and return it via email to LowCarbonFuel.Consultation@dft.gov.uk or post it to the address on the website, to be received by 11:45pm on 16 September 2018.
Do it now, before it is too late.
The consultation document and response form can be found by following this Department for Transport consultation link;
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