Lies, More Lies, And Then There’s CRC Studies

By Ron Lamberty | April 01, 2013

I’m not a scientist, but I think I could put together a good sample group for a study. That’s just math. I’m not a mathematician either, but I know that a statistically sound study needs to test an unbiased group made up of a cross section of the stuff one would find in the “real” world. 

For example, if we were studying E15’s effect on cars and trucks from model year 2001 to the present day, we would start with a list of the top-selling cars during the time period and put together a cross section for our sample group. Ford F150 and Chevy Silverado, have been No. 1 and No. 2 overall forever, Toyota Camry and Corolla and Honda Accord and Civic are always top-selling cars. Dodge has the Ram pickup, Chrysler sold a lot of minivans, and I would probably have an Impala, a Taurus, something from Nissan, maybe a small pickup. 

Actually that looks a little bit like the group of cars the U.S. EPA and U.S. DOE picked when they tested and approved E15. We would not do what was done in the Coordinating Research Council study, CRC Project Number CM-136-09-1, which is widely used by E15 opponents to “prove” E15 isn’t safe. 

The oil industry is pushing legislation that would prevent E15 from even being offered in retail fuel stations across the country, based on results from that test. Big Oil says the CRC test proves E15 will put “millions of vehicles at risk,” yet there weren’t even a million of the tested vehicles sold. The vehicle models used in CRC Project CM-136-09-1 make up about one-half of one percent of the total vehicle pool approved to use E15. The eight vehicles represent less than 1 million of the 180 million cars and light trucks sold in the United States in model years 2001 and newer.

Only one of the eight vehicles tested, the 2007 Dodge Ram, was among the top 10 vehicles sold in the United States since 2001, no F150 or Silverado, and none of the other cars and trucks mentioned above. Normally, a nonrepresentative sample like that would raise a red flag among scientists and elected officials. Or maybe it would raise an eyebrow of at least one member of the media. Yet, CRC and oil industry representatives have been practically unchallenged in their characterization of CRC Project CM-136-09-1 as a test representative of the vehicle fleet in general. 

In fact, the request for proposals for the study states clearly that the objective of the test was to determine engine durability on engines that “are deemed to be sensitive to the effects of E20.” They certainly got engines that were sensitive. But they were sensitive to any fuel, and had been long before E15. The vehicles chosen for the test—the 2001 Honda CR-V, 2002 VW Jetta, 2004 Scion xA,  2005 Chevrolet Colorado, 2007 Ford Edge, 2007 Dodge Ram, 2009 Dodge Caliber, and 2009 Chevy Aveo—were selected because they had a well-documented history of the type of failure the test purported to be looking for, regardless of the fuel used in them. 

Over 300 technical service bulletins (TSB) were issued by the manufacturers of the eight tested vehicles, many which described the exact problems that caused a “fail” grade in the CRC test. The Honda CR-V had TSBs showing rough idle, hard starting, poor engine performance, malfunction indicator lamps, evaporative emissions system issues and internal leaks. Scion xA had a TSB on clogged fuel injectors. Volkswagen issued TSBs on the 2002 Jetta for fuel system trouble codes, bad fuel mixtures, rough idle, significant loss of power or stalling and reduced performance. The Aveo had TSBs for reduced power and a check engine light, and the 2005 Chevy Colorado had a large number of the previously mentioned problems plus valve and valve seat problems and combustion leakage. GM even sent a letter to every Colorado owner telling them about the valve and leakage problems and the company extended its warranty to cover the likely repair.

It is clear that CRC selected the vehicles and the test protocol because they knew there was a high likelihood of failure. The books were cooked and it’s in writing, easy to find. What is not clear is why the media and Congress seem to be cooperating with Big Oil in this obvious misrepresentation.

Ron Lamberty
Senior Vice President,
American Coalition for Ethanol