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Updated: 03/01/2010 10:47 PM
Created: 03/01/2010 10:04 PM KSTP.com | Print |  Email
By: Mark Albert and Becky Nahm

Minn. at center of ethanol debate


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 Small Engine Manufacturers

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There's a showdown coming this year over the amount of ethanol that goes into gas tanks across the state; a fight over energy, money, and your safety.

Opponents of increasing ethanol use warn of overheating motors and corrosion. Proponents call those claims lies.

Minnesota is at the center of the battle because it wants to be the first state to increase the amount of ethanol in unleaded gasoline from 10 percent to 20 percent.

A 2005 law led to current regulations that mandate that each gallon of gas in Minnesota is 90 percent unleaded gasoline and 10 percent ethanol--a mix known as E10.

The same law calls for bumping the amount of ethanol to 15 percent later this year, if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants Minnesota a waiver.

The EPA hopes to decide on E15 by early summer.

Auto and small engine manufacturers oppose the move. They warn of corroded or burned-out parts, lower gas mileage, altered emissions and voided warranties.

Federal studies did show that higher concentrations of ethanol increase the amount of oxygen in the gasoline and that can cause engines to run hotter and faster and even override safety mechanisms.

But research conducted at the Center for Automotive Research at Minnesota State Mankato appears to support proponents

The lab spent more than five years rigorously testing ethanol's effects on automobiles, with a focus on corrosion.

Dr. Bruce Jones from the center said, "The corrosion that we saw would be years and years down the road before that would cause a problem."

Jones said it would take hundreds of years for the corrosion to impact the vehicle's operation.

The center doesn't yet know how E15 or E20 would affect small-engine products like snowblowers, lawn mowers or chain saws because it only began studying the effects last month.

The federal government is also currently conducting tests of ethanol's effect on small engine products.

Watch our 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation to hear from an automaker who broke ranks with other auto manufacturers and told us E15 would not pose a problem, as well as the MN lawmaker who wrote the law.


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