Home / Car News / More Corn Per Gallon: The White House Opens The Taps On E15 To Reduce Gas Prices

More Corn Per Gallon: The White House Opens The Taps On E15 To Reduce Gas Prices

An ethanol distillation facility that produces the corn juice for E15

E15 fuel is going country-wide, Nissan facelifts the Leaf, Lamborghini trots out another Huracán. All this and more on today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If you’re morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Gentlemen, Behold: Corn!

A corn field in the midwest. The ethanol in E15 often comes from corn.
Photo credit: “Lone tree and corn at sunset” by Citizen 4474 is marked with CC BY 2.0.

With high gas prices weighing on everyone’s pocketbooks and summer road trips just around the corner, the federal government is turning to E15 gasoline in an attempt to lower fuel prices. President Joe Biden is set to announce Tuesday that anti-pollution restrictions which prevent the sale of E15 in smog-prone areas will be waived, permitting nationwide sales of E15 from June 1 to Sept. 15.

E15 may sound a bit scary, but gasoline that’s 15 percent ethanol by volume is actually fairly benign. It’s safe to use in all cars, light trucks and SUVs since model year 2001 and isn’t a huge change from the E10 fuel already sold at gas stations across America. More importantly, the production of ethanol fuel has already been subsidized by the federal government for 17 years, so it’s not like the move to E15 will impact you come tax time.

While the White House has issued a statement claiming that current gas prices are a result of Russia invading Ukraine, that’s not entirely truthful. Remember when oil futures went negative early in the pandemic? Petroleum companies sliced production as a result of decreased demand. Unfortunately, consumer demand spiked soon after, straining reserves and jacking up fuel prices due to supply scarcity. Add in the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and reduced public transit usage post-pandemic, and the picture looks too complicated to explain through simple finger-pointing. While the invasion of Ukraine has definitely contributed to rising gas prices, undersupply dating back two years and high consumer demand are the primary underlying factors.

Truthfully, E15 is a bit of a double-edged sword. While it should make gasoline cheaper, ethanol is less potent than gasoline so fuel economy is likely to suffer a touch. Speaking with Bloomberg, Gasbuddy’s head of petroleum analysis Patrick DeHaan said E15 retails for five to 10 cents per gallon cheaper than regular gasoline in areas where E15 is already available. Hopefully similar savings will be seen through the rest of the country when E15 rolls out to different markets. It’s also absolutely not recommended to run E15 fuel in small engines and older vehicles, as ethanol can be corrosive. Stick with E10 or ethanol-free fuel in cars made before 2001 and don’t use any ethanol in your lawnmower, hedge trimmer or portable generator. Still, cheaper gas is nice for the pocketbook, so here’s to hoping that E15 lives up to its expectations.

Make Like A Tree

2023 Nissan Leaf mobbing through the canyons
Photo credit: Nissan

Nissan has refreshed the Leaf heading into its fifth model year, though,tweaks are fairly minor. Up front, there’s a new blacked-out grille, blacked-out headlamp inserts, and the new-look Nissan emblem. Around the back, the rear diffuser and rear spoiler have been mildly revised while the new-look Nissan emblem appears on the tailgate. The higher-end SV Plus trim level features a wonderfully complex set of alloy wheels, but that’s about it for visual changes. As far as facelifts go, it’s rare to see one lighter than this.

While the new cosmetic updates do give the Leaf a nicer appearance, there are some caveats. Firstly, the Leaf is still hampered by the use of a CHAdeMO rather than CCS fast charging plug. Most Level 3 fast charging stations only support CCS connectors, so the Leaf is of limited road trip use. We’ll expand on Nissan’s decision to stay the course with CHAdeMO on the Leaf in a future article. Secondly, it’s no longer possible to get the larger 62 kWh battery pack on the base model, so pricing for the longer-range Leaf is expected to rise considerably. Nissan said that pricing and range for the SV Plus trim level, the cheapest 2023 Leaf with a 62 kWh battery pack, should stay close to the current SV Plus trim level’s price and range of $36,425 and 215 miles. I don’t know about you, but somewhere in the neighborhood of $36,425 for a five-year-old EV with limited charging network compatibility and just over 200 miles of range seems like a non-starter.

For context, the Chevrolet Bolt starts at $32,495 and features 259 miles of range, while the Hyundai Kona Electric SEL starts at $35,245 and features 258 miles of range. More importantly, both of these models feature modern CCS fast-charging connectors. While the 62 kWh Leaf’s price jump does include more features than the outgoing S Plus model, it doesn’t address the Leaf’s capability limitations. While some consumers may have been willing to put up with these limitations for a cheap starting price, the 2023 Leaf SV Plus doesn’t seem set up for success.

Pushin’ P

2023 Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance front three-quarter view
Photo credit: Lucid Motors

After selling out the Lucid Air Dream Edition, Lucid’s making high performance a little less limited with a new trim called the Grand Touring Performance. The specs are quite strong: 1,050 horsepower, 0-60 mph in a quoted 2.6 seconds and 446 miles of estimated range. That should worry the Porsche Taycan Turbo. While these figures are all a tick behind the Air Dream Edition P’s figures, who’s really going to notice a tenth of a second? More importantly, the Grand Touring Performance does the 0-60 mph dash four tenths of a second quicker than the standard Grand Touring trim. Now that’s something customers will notice.

Keen carspotters will be able to identify an Air Grand Touring Performance by its distinctive five-blade wheels. A massive 21 inches in diameter, these alloys are reminiscent of modern Porsche interpretations of the classic Fuchs alloy, except with a literal twist. I won’t lie, they look pretty sweet, and I’m normally a hater of the black wheels with cut faces trope. The Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance starts at $179,000 and first deliveries will start in June. Admittedly, it’s pretty rare for a car manufacturer to announce pricing for a new trim level at the same time as the new trim level itself, so kudos to Lucid for such early transparency.

Bull On Parade

Lamborghini Huracán Technica front three-quarter view
Photo credit: Lamborghini

Sensing a gulf between the absolutely insane Huracán STO and the perfectly docile Huracan EVO, Lamborghini has introduced a new middle child to the Huracán V10 supercar lineup. Called the Technica, it pairs STO power with a touch of civility. Just a touch.

See, the Huracán Technica may have a frunk and some semblance of rearward visibility, but it still spins just the rear tires with 631 horsepower. Rest assured, the rest of its performance figures are equally biblical. The new fixed rear wing helps contribute to a 35 percent increase in downforce and a 20 percent reduction in drag over the Huracán Evo. As a result, the Huracán Technica’s top speed stands at 202 mph. Proper supercar stuff. While the Huracán Technica may feature four-wheel steering, carbon ceramic brakes and a special traction control system, its rear-wheel-drive layout means keeping this bull on the road falls squarely in the hands of whatever talent its driver is packing. Shiny side up, please.

Perhaps more importantly, some of the Huracán Technica’s styling cues preview the Aventador’s replacement. The black accents in the front bumper were previewed by the Sian and will likely appear on the V12. Ditto the hexagonal exhaust tips. While spy shots of the next V12 Lamborghini don’t display prominent air curtain vents in the front bumper, the slat pattern of the Huracán Technica’s air curtains appears in the next V12 car’s side scoops. Faster, madder, more angular – it’s the Lamborghini way.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on this edition of The Morning Dump. Happy Tuesday everyone, you got through Garfield’s least-favorite day of the week. You know, the perpetual stream of new Lamborghinis makes me wonder if there are any true supercars anymore. The McLaren 765LT fulfills the scary to drive fast requirement, but even McLarens just seem a bit common these days. It’s hard to feel the same rush we felt as children seeing a Diablo or a Testarossa on the street unless we see a Diablo or a Testarossa. What was the last supercar that really excited you?

Lead photo credit: “Lincolnway Energy ethanol plant” by freddthompson is marked with CC-BY SA 2.0.

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42 Responses

  1. I just hope it does not expand beyond this date range – E15 from June 1 to Sept. 15.
    My biggest concern is going to be the ability to find E0 this summer!
    I just hate feeding corn to my ’90 CRX-Si.

  2. “E15 retails for five to 10 cents per gallon cheaper than regular gasoline”

    If it’s only 5 to 10 cents then don’t bother. Any savings at the pump will be offset by the loss of mileage, which according to the EPA site appears to be around 2% per extra 5% of ethanol in your gas. At $4/gal gas that means it needs to be 8 cents cheaper just to break even. Not worth the extra nastiness of more ethanol in your tank IMHO.

    The only time I’ll buy E15 is if it’s 20 cents or more per gallon cheaper. For some reason I only see this at some stations. Most are 5 cents, which is a hard pass from me.

  3. I saw a dealership last week with a couple Lambos, a Maserati, a Porsche sedan & SUV, a nice 2 door Blazer, and what appeared to be a Syclone. Another place had a few vintage road race vehicles. I was excited to see all of them.

  4. McLaren P1. Svelte and insane performance; lovely to just look at and, for me, doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard in any one way (or overall), nor does it seem to simply be an exercise in calculated high functioning.

  5. “isn’t a huge change from the E10 fuel already sold at gas stations across America.”

    Actually, it would seem to be exactly 50% worse. I sincerely hope this isn’t the start of a scheme to replace E10 with E15 across the board. Ideally we would stop bribing farmers to grow corn to burn in our gas tanks at all, but alas the structure of the Senate and Electoral College don’t allow for it.

  6. “Add in the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline”

    The Keystone XL wouldn’t even be complete yet and still wouldn’t be for years if it hadn’t been cancelled. It has no effect on the current oil prices.

    1. I’m trying to figure out why E15 would be banned in smog-prone areas anyway. I thought the narrative around ethanol was that it burns cleaner than straight gas, but it was debatable whether the full lifecycle emissions were actually better (i.e. it does you no good to burn “clean” ethanol in cars if you burned a bunch of dirty diesel in tractors to grow the corn in the first place).

    1. Same. The F1 was the last car to inspire true awe, as it was head and shoulders above anything else available at the time. The Veyron was the last car to really dominate, but it was only in one category and was incredibly ugly. To me, you need to be more than just a straight-line machine to be a supercar, and if you’re ugly I’m not interested regardless.

    2. I think of a Koenigsegg more in the category of hypercar, similar to anything made by Pagani or Bugatti or Rimac. Supercar seems to have become the definition for the level below, like the “normal” Ferrari/Lambo/McLaren models, or an NSX. Still pretty special, but will barely get a second look in Miami or Dubai.

  7. Gas prices are artificially inflated, if Exxon hadn’t just posted RECORD quarterly profits I’d accept some of the claims that this is due to Russia – but it’s not. The Big Oil execs see a world news event and use it as an excuse to artificially jump the price. I understand a lot of pricing on oil is based on futures, per gallon price and expectations of where the market goes but this line of thinking that the gas prices are because of the pipeline and Russia is ridiculous. The XL pipeline thing drives me nuts too, the pipeline never moved a drop of oil….yet the day after it’s canceled gas jumps up.

    They aren’t pumping more with the current leases and drilling rights they already have because why the hell should they? They are able to pass along higher and higher costs to us without them working harder. Yes I know that claim about 9,000 unused leases is a bit slanted, they have environmental studies to do, etc, well get off your ass and do them.

    Exxon claim source:
    https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/exxon-signals-record-quarterly-profit-oil-gas-prices-2022-04-04/

  8. Corn ethanol is not a viable replacement for petroleum, considering the fossil fuel inputs required to produce it. A study by Cornell University found the EROEI ratio was less than one, meaning more fossil fuel inputs are required than the amount of usable energy that will be available from the ethanol produced by the fossil fuel inputs. Not all biofuels have this issue(hemp derived methanol and biodiesel are especially biofuels worth pursuing), but corn ethanol is largely a scheme to subsidize the agribusiness and biotech industries, and with looming food cost increases(or even outright shortages) ahead thanks to the fuckery going on in the Ukraine and all of the supply line disruptions, this could end up contributing to higher food prices next year.

    Not a good idea, IMO.

    1. Yes, at the moment the Russian war in Ukraine is increasing the cost of food, particularly grains. It seems like a terrible idea to turn a food product into E15 right now. We will literally be burning food to drive across town while many people around the world are hungry.

  9. This is genius, since when the decrease in fuel prices are offset by an increase in food prices we can just make the packages just a little bit smaller on everything. Voters won’t notice and they’ll think the problem is solved!

    This is a much better solution than doing the hard, but right thing of charismatically leading the country through a hard time and multiple urgent crisis because the situation demands it.

    /s

  10. Yay, more ethanol to eat up lines and gum up carbs on small engines. Meanwhile, I’ve noticed less stations in my area selling ethanol free gas at all. Had a handful within a 15 minute drive. Now I’m down to 2.

  11. In the elementary school pickup line last June. In rolled a McLaren P1 to pick up their kid. Everyone stopped and stared at that beauty. I may have been one of the few who actually knew what the car was. Heard about the “Ferrari” or “Lamborghini” the next day.

  12. Wait, aren’t we now facing a major worldwide shortage of both grain and fertilizers due to the Russo-Ukrainian War, along with rapidly increasing food prices? How is burning more food in our cars going to improve any of that? Just seems like maybe partially improving one problem by making another problem worse.

  13. “While the Huracán Technica may feature four-wheel steering, carbon ceramic brakes and a special traction control system”

    Of all places why are you publishing PR spin like this? Literally every trim of every car has a different traction control tune if it has different tires, engine, etc

  14. Please, please, I beg you, stop using the word “whelp” unless you’re talking about a dog giving birth to cute little puppies. That word has been so overused in place of “well” that it grates like fingernails on a chalkboard.

  15. My 2017 Subaru specifically states in the manual not to use any gas/ethanol blend with more than 10% ethanol. I’ll trust the manufacturer more than a blanket government statement that it’s safe to use in anything built after 2001.

    If E15 becomes more common, I expect most vehicles built for E10 would just need an ECU update to handle E15.

    1. You wouldn’t really need an ECU update, as the octane rating should be the same as existing E10 fuels (the existence of which continues to aggravate me). You will need a bit more fuel to prevent going lean, but the ECU will easily adjust to that based off of the O2 sensors.

      The real concern is the additional corrosion on parts that were only designed for E10 at worst. I too will avoid E15 as long as possible, I don’t trust it in my 2005 any more than I put grocery store gas in it.

    2. Ouch. Yes, my 2015 Kia manual also says no ethanol over 10%.

      Assuming it’s by volume, E10 is 9:1 gasoline:ethanol, E15 is 8.5:1. So it sounds like you’d need to add 0.5 gal E0 (if you can find it) for every gal of E15, to get the mix back down to E10. That would be an expensive PITA.

      So far, the E15 thing is just for this summer. If you get an ECU update, will you need another for next summer?

  16. The last supercar I even noticed was the Testarossa. Had the poster on my wall, now I have the 1:8 scale Pocher model kit of it waiting to be built. Anything newer, to me, is just a speedy doorstop all too often driven by imbeciles with too much money.

  17. I saw a Glickenhaus development car recently driving near the CT/NY line, that certainly grabbed my attention. Looked like absolutely nothing else I’ve ever seen on the road, and took me a bit to figure out what the hell I was looking at.
    But yeah the average Ferrari/Lambo/McLaren these days just get a “hmm, that’s nice”.

  18. A few months ago saw a McLaren Senna on the road, it was bright green and just as loud as you’d expect. followed for about 1 mile before it turned away. Wish I could post the pic here, but its okay this site is still growing into the beast it will become.

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