ACE proposes temporary E15 waiver

By Kris Bevill | September 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted Sept. 24, 2008 at 5:11 p.m. CST

In light of recent oil refinery closures due to Hurricane Ike's destruction in the Gulf of Mexico, the American Coalition for Ethanol has proposed a temporary E15 waiver to help alleviate gasoline shortages.

Since Sept. 16, ACE has been pitching the idea to the public, members of the U.S. Congress and the White House administration, according to executive vice president Brian Jennings. "The government has completely overlooked this option," he said, adding "the issue needs to be raised."

The U.S. EPA, regulating body of the Clean Air Act, regularly issues temporary fuel waivers after natural disasters in order to prevent a disruption of the supply chain. The agency recently issued such waivers for many southern states, relaxing vapor restrictions, among other things. Although temporary, these types of waivers are meant to keep fuel streaming to consumers in a steady supply. ACE said a temporary waiver allowing for higher percentages of ethanol would do the same thing and be more economically and environmentally friendly. Jennings said it's a feasible option that would provide some "immediate relief" to temporary gas shortages.

Administration and EPA officials have expressed concern as to the compatibility of E15 in vehicles, Jennings said. He points to preliminary research being conducted by the U.S. DOE as possible evidence that E15 is perfectly compatible for use in all vehicles. Also, the fuel is easily used in the current fuel infrastructure.

ACE said many gas pumps are already approved by the Underwriters Laboratory to dispense E15. In addition, while oil refineries have been forced to shut down production, many ethanol producers are capable of increasing their supply to meet demand. In fact, Jennings mentioned reports of railcars filled with ethanol being left on the tracks because there is a shortage of petroleum to blend with it.

On Sept. 22, oil prices had the largest one-day rise in price ever. Jennings said that is even more compelling evidence that the government should consider at least temporarily allowing an increased amount of ethanol to be blended with gasoline. "Adding ethanol to the fuel supply could reduce those prices," he said. "Even if it was temporary, it would deal with the supply crunch and price issues."

At press time Jennings had received no indication that government leaders were considering the proposal, but stressed the importance of raising the issue to make officials aware the possibility exists.