Many people appear unaware that last week, the Biden administration raised the "summer blend" ethanol-in-gasoline blend requirement from 10% to 15%. This may have serious consequences, including physical damage, for the engines of older vehicles, and also for small engines (e.g. outboard motors, lawnmowers, tillers, generators, and so on).
American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) is "the leading trade association representing the makers of the fuels that keep Americans moving and the petrochemicals that are the essential building blocks for modern life". On their Web site, they talk about the "Blend Wall" as follows:
The blend wall is the maximum amount of ethanol that can be safely absorbed into the U.S. gasoline pool. Today, the blend wall sits at roughly 10 percent of total gasoline consumed. That 10 percent is a reflection of compatible retail infrastructure and consumer demand.
Ethanol is a valuable source of octane in finished gasoline, but it is chemically different than petroleum gasoline and cannot be used in concentrations above 10 percent in small engines — like outboard boat motors, motorcycles, lawnmowers, generators or chain saws — or in any cars made before 2001. Complicating matters further, most cars on the road today still aren’t warrantied to run on gasoline with more than 10 percent ethanol. Retail stations also must have compatible infrastructure in order to sell gasoline with higher ethanol blends. Until those factors change, and change significantly, the blend wall is likely to remain set at or around 10 percent.
Based on the volume targets set in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the 2007 Energy Information Administration outlook available to policymakers at the time, it is clear Congress never intended for the RFS conventional mandate to exceed the E10 blend wall. Corn ethanol’s share of the mandate was supposed to remain just below 10 percent of the gasoline pool, at most.
If your vehicle was made before 2001, or is not certified by its manufacturer to run on a fuel blend of more than 10% ethanol, the new fuel blend mandate may signal serious problems for you. You may be forced to part-fill your vehicle's tank with ethanol-free gasoline, then the rest with 15% ethanol mix, in order to bring the total ethanol content down below 10%. (That's what I'm going to do in my 2014 vehicle, for sure. My wife's vehicle, being much newer, is - according to the local dealer - able to run safely on the 15% blend.)
Furthermore, something like 40% of US corn production goes into ethanol for fuel. Now that ethanol production will have to increase by 50% (the difference between 10% and 15% fuel mixtures), even more corn will be absorbed by the fuel industry - at a time when there's a worldwide food shortage. I don't think there could possibly be a more damaging bureaucratic decision than this, not just for vehicles, but for the food market as a whole. People are already starving. This is going to make it worse.
As for fuel reserves (if you keep a few cans of fuel handy for your lawnmower or generator, or to refill your vehicle in case of emergency), I've long argued that it's best to store non-ethanol gasoline, because the latter lasts longer without deterioration than mixed fuel, and is also better for small engines. That goes double now that the ethanol level will go to 15%. Non-ethanol fuel is more expensive than mixed fuel, but delivers greater energy per gallon when used. I think it's now become mandatory for our emergency fuel supply. If you've stored ethanol-mix fuel, I highly recommend that you use it at once in your vehicle, and refill your fuel containers with non-ethanol gasoline. Add some stabilizer to lengthen the fuel's storage life (I use PRI-G, but there are many others such as Sta-Bil, Seafoam, etc. - take your pick) and you're good to go.
I think the only people who will benefit from this astoundingly dunderheaded bureaucratic decision will be those who want to outlaw fossil fuels altogether (not to mention restrict private motoring), and of course Big Ag - the massive agriculture conglomerates who will now be able to sell more and more corn to the "captive market" of the fuel refineries, whether the latter like it or not. The rest of us are going to be lumbered with the consequences. Right now, I can't see any good ones.