Is Ethanol Too Corrosive?

Politicians love to fall all over themselves to promote the ethanol use. In 1990, this resulted in Clean Air Act provisions that compromised the effectivenes of fuel content requirements and led to widespread MTBE water pollution. (While MTBE was the pollutant, the provision that led to widespread MTBE use was pushed by the ethanol lobby.)

The New York Times reports on another potential problem with E85 ethanol fuels: their corrosivity.

E85, a blend of 85 percent corn-based ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, could be eating away at metal and plastic parts in pumps being used to dispense the fuel at gasoline stations, Underwriters Laboratories, the private product-safety testing group, said this month. . . .

Underwriters Laboratories, which certifies the safety of everything from toasters to televisions, has temporarily withdrawn authorization for the U.L.-approved label on parts used in E85 dispensers. Those dispensers, it turns out, were modified from regular gasoline dispensers and were certified only for a maximum of 15 percent ethanol concentration; U.L. said it had never certified any E85-specific pumps.

The reversal has heightened concerns among some oil companies about the safety of E85 pumps on the market and threatens to slow the proliferation of the fuel, which automakers, President Bush and Midwest lawmakers are pushing as a homegrown alternative to gasoline.