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Ethanol: Is it a vintage car’s worst enemy?

With prices at the pump almost as high as they have ever been this summer, it makes sense that lawmakers on Capital Hill are doing all they can to explore new options when it comes to fueling America's automobiles. During the summer months, when classic car fans are travelling back and forth from the country's biggest auto shows – or even just taking off with their family for a well-deserved vacation – the burden of paying for gas is even more significant. However, some of the most popular fuel alternatives on the market may be helping to keep price hikes at bay when it comes time to fill up, but you may have to pay in the long run to offset the potential damage done to your vehicle.

Ethanol is one such substitute, which has long been lauded as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels to help keep America's engines running. This substance is a corn-based alcohol that functions in a similar way to traditional gasoline in that it will fire up a motor at the same combustion level. Farmers and many of the country's top auto manufacturers have long advocated for ethanol since it requires little adaptation to the inner workings of a vehicle to successfully make the car run. In this respect, ethanol is less costly than solar, electric or other power alternatives in that it won't require major redesigns to effectively get the wheels in motion.

However, it's not all roses when it comes to ethanol, as this substance can have quite a few negative factors to it that actually make it worse than gasoline in some respects. To begin with, many environmentally conscious experts will be quick to point out that the emissions released by ethanol is pretty much the same as fossil fuels, making the case that this is a green option completely void. Most notably, ethanol is known to attract moisture at alarming rates and this moisture absorbing substance can do a real number on the innards of your vintage American car and it can be extremely corrosive.  This is especially true for older metal tanks and vented fuel systems like those found in small engines, motorcycles, recreational vehicles and marine engines.

Sadly for many classic car fans, the U.S. government has already began allowing gas stations to infuse their product with ethanol, meaning that the fuel you are pumping into your hot rod could already be damaging your engine. The vast majority of the gasoline sold in the U.S. today already contains a 10 or even 15 percent ethanol mix.

On June 19, the SEMA Action Network (SAN), along with politicians and hundreds of classic car and motorcycle owners, descended upon the Capital to protest the use of ethanol because of the negative effect it has on their engines. Currently, the law makes it so that every gas pump that has 15% ethanol-infused gasoline display a warning that states their product can only be used on on-road cars and trucks made on or after the year 2001, but the group and supporters are hoping to stop the mandated use of ethanol altogether so that classic car owners have the option to buy regular gasoline without ethanol.

If you are passionate about preserving your class American car or motorcycle, write a letter to your congressman or reach out to SAN to voice your support of legislation that bans this dangerous substance. It'd be a shame if generations of cool rides disappear from the U.S. because they can't use the fuel.

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