American Elephants

The EU Has Mandated E10 Gasoline. The Germans Said No. by The Elephant's Child
April 19, 2011, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Europe, Freedom, Junk Science, Statism | Tags: , ,

Gasoline, laced with ethanol and known as E10, is ubiquitous in the United States and the EPA is busily trying to force the country to accept E15.  The Germans, on the other hand, will have none of it.

A  European Union directive requires gas stations to sell fuel with 10 percent ethanol content.  The law regulating the introduction of E10 foresees industry penalties should CO2 targets not be met, so the average tank of gasoline will cost more.

Der Spiegel reports that:

An attempt to introduce the biofuel mixture E10 in Germany has been a disaster, after motorists refused to buy the supposed green gasoline.  Car makers, oil companies and politicians have all tried to blame each other for the mess.  Even environmentalists oppose the new fuel. …

German motorists are to blame for the commercial failure of the supposed green gasoline.  The first attempt by politicians to foist a product that is both expensive and environmentally questionable on consumers has failed.  German Environment Minister Norbert Rottgen, who had earlier argued in favor of the fuel, is now as embarrassed as the petroleum industry and the auto industry. …

Of course, drivers are the ones paying for the setback.  Oil companies, like Aral, Shell, Esso and Jet, have already raised their prices to recoup their additional costs.  According to industry information, the cost of converting refineries and filling stations to E-10 was in the triple-digit millions, while reversing the development is unlikely to be much cheaper.

The article includes all the usual political themes.  Drivers are just uninformed, drivers don’t think wheat belongs in their gas tanks with people starving in many countries, the benefits of E10 were not properly explained, and drivers were uncertain if their cars could cope with E10.  Sounds just like our media, except you probably would never find a source that would say “supposed green gasoline.”

The EU had intended to limit emissions in carmakers’ new models to an average of only 120 grams of CO2 per kilometer. Auto makers were uncertain about promoting the fuel.  Even the German Interior Ministry instructed its employees not to fill up their official vehicles with biofuel until further notice.  Auto makers have backed off, have been slow to issue a liability promise for E10 damage.  Motorists are required to show that E10 damaged their engine, a major hurdle.

The car industry blames the oil industry, which has not done a big advertising campaign. The oil companies have little interest in biofuels, beyond doing the bare minimum needed to satisfy the requirement.

Greenpeace says increasing the ethanol content of gasoline is not a sensible climate or environmental protection measure.  BUND (Friends of the Earth) calls the measure ineffective. The London-based Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and nine other European environmental organizations funded a study that found that  the environmental record of fuel from renewable resources is not positive, but negative. Biofuel, they reported, is “more harmful” to the climate than the fossil fuels it is supposed to replace.

About 27,000 square miles of forest, pasture and wetlands would have to be cultivated as farmland to satisfy the future demand for biofuel in Europe alone, or an area twice the size of Belgium. Corn grown for ethanol is replacing potatoes, raw materials for beer, and food prices are rising. Farmers like higher prices, subsidies confuse the situation, the EU changes its mind and admits that it is wrong about as often as the EPA. In the meantime, can you buy plain old gasoline anywhere here?

4 Comments so far
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I’m not defending any biofuel policy, but it would be a surprise to me that there is “a European Union directive requiring gas stations to sell fuel with 10 percent ethanol content.”

Do you have a link to the specific Directive? The 2008 Renewable Energy Directive does not require gas stations to sell fuel with 10 percent ethanol content (unless I missed something) but rather requires that, by 2020, 10% of transport fuel in each Member State be 10% supplied by renewable energy sources. That can include the contribution from hybrid cars, or electric cars and rail powered by renewable energy. (Not sure whether electric cars powered by nuclear energy qualify.) Experts estimate that, effectively, biofuels will have to account for around 8% of fuel. But that can be a mix of low-percentage and high-percentage blends, such as E85 or E95 (used in already in Sweden, supplied by Brazil).

At the same time, like California, the EU has a low-carbon fuel standard which requires that the weighted-average life-cycle emissions of fuel used in the EU be reduced by 10%. Some of that reduction is expected to be met by changing suppliers (which is why Canada’s tar sands producers are so worried) and upgrading the energy efficiency of refineries.

In order to facilitate these regulations, the Fuel Quality Directive had to lift the maximum allowed blend of ethanol in gasoline from 5% to 10% (analogous to the EPA action to increase the maximum for normal gasoline from E10 to E15). I would be surprised if it REQUIRED that E10 be sold at every gas station.

What the individual Member States do is much different, and can vary from one to another.


I just want to make sure the facts of the story are correct.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

I got it from Der Spiegel’s previous article on E10 that I didn’t link to, though it is linked on the page of my links. Second sentence says “But a European Union directive requiring gas stations to sell fuel with 10 percent ethanol content has his a snag in Germany” I thought the article a little unclear about what were directives, regulations and mandates, and perhaps I misread it. Sounds like everyone on the selling end is very unenthusiastic, while the EU is hot to regulate. The EU, again according to the article, had intended to require carmakers to limit emissions to 120 grams of CO2 per kilometer (however you measure that). Sounds like they are trying to get too complicated for their own good. Won’t do any good anyway. I thought it interesting that the German public had thrown a very large monkey wrench in the whole proceeding.

EU environmental directives are causing a lot of trouble, and people are getting their backs up. The British are heading for big trouble with their power sources.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

Measuring CO2 emissions per km for new models is easy. Take the fuel economy measurement (e.g., as measured by the EPA for its official ratings), and multiply the fuel use by the grams of CO2 per gallon (or litre) per mile (or per Km).


Comment by Subsidy Eye

This is SO bogus:

To quote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (former governor of Iowa)”These projects [to promote renewable fuels] will contribute knowledge and technologies that will ultimately help us break our dependence on foreign oil and move our nation toward a clean energy economy that creates jobs and keeps America competitive.”

This is pie-in-the-sky promises. There simply is not enough cheap and accessible biomass to around to make a hill of beans.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

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