Recently President Trump announced that the rules on fuel ethanol would be changed to use E15 all year round. It would no longer be banned in the summer. This has been announced as a boon for American farmers, hurt in the trade war with China.

Like all government interventions in the market, government can only help one by hurting another. I wrote on this last October, but must elaborate on the consequences.

Ethanol is an inferior fuel to gasoline for internal combustion engines. It has less energy per gallon than gasoline. It draws water from the atmosphere into the bottom of the fuel tank, forming a precipitate that clogs fuel systems. It is one of the leading causes of engine damage in small engines. Although most recent model automobiles can handle E10, very few are certified for E15.

Small engines, as in lawnmowers, chain saws, weed eaters, motorcycles, and outboards are much more affected. I use only premium gas in my motorcycle and lawnmower to reduce the amount of ethanol blended into the gas. The (more expensive) alternatives are aviation gas or Tru Fuel ($20 per gallon at Home Depot).

Some years back, I would go to South Dakota annually to hunt pheasants. A friend of a friend would kindly put me up for a five-day trip in a spare bedroom. Kenny was a retired telephone lineman who had grown up on a small farm outside of town. He bought a Chevy Avalanche to take advantage of the E85 fuel sold at the local gas station and help his local farmers. He immediately discovered that the truck had no acceleration. Ethanol could not provide the same power as gasoline. Worse, the truck had a computer that showed him what poor mileage he was getting. He has avoided the other disadvantages of ethanol now by buying regular gasoline.

Like solar power and wind power, if ethanol was truly a good idea, it would not need a subsidy or a government mandate. It could stand in the marketplace by itself. We should repeal the Renewable Fuels Standards Act.

Julian Mardock is a native Texan and retired physician.

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