Federal E15 mandate closer to reality

By Kris Bevill | April 14, 2009
Ethanol lobby groups officially filed a petition with the U.S. EPA on March 6 requesting that the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline be increased from 10 percent to 15 percent.

The EPA must now review the submittal and hold public commentary hearings before completing its final ruling.

Industry lobby group Growth Energy held a press conference immediately following the filing to discuss the waiver. Co-chairman Gen. Wesley Clark pointed out that the request calls for an increase of ethanol up to 15 percent and that station owners wouldn't be required to offer E15. He was hesitant to offer any sort of timeline as to the EPA's approval of the waiver but mentioned the possibility of a more immediate approval for the use of E12 or E13. "Ideally, we'd like to see E12/E13 happen immediately," Clark said. "Certainly this yearmaybe before summer." He asked ethanol producers to contact their legislative representatives and submit comments to the EPA in support of the waiver.

Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said the association looks forward to working with the EPA and other government agencies in the coming weeks "to ensure the
full potential of a robust domestic ethanol industry is realized." He added that while E15 is a necessary step in that direction, an immediate move to E12 would give the industry some needed breathing room to ensure economic viability.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the American Coalition for Ethanol mentioned recent meetings with members of Congress who expressed strong support for the increase of ethanol blended gasoline to limits above 10 percent. ACE commended Jackson's commitment to make a decision based on science rather than politics, and offered to provide scientific data to justify the use of higher ethanol blends and to work to implement scientific methodologies to calculate life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions for biofuels.

A coalition of cellulosic ethanol producers also sent a letter to Jackson in support of the waiver and stated "removing the regulatory cap will ensure the product market necessary to encourage continued investment in the commercialization of advanced biofuels."

One of the issues surrounding the use of midlevel ethanol blends is their functionality in legacy pumps. Recent progress was made in that arena when Underwriters Laboratories Inc. announced its support for the use of fuel blended with 15 percent ethanol in existing fuel dispensers. "UL determined that there is no significant incremental risk of damage between E10 and fuels with a maximum of 15 percent ethanol," said John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager for UL. However, he added, E10 has been known to consist of up to 13 percent ethanol. Therefore, the organization's support of fuel containing 15 percent ethanol should not be misinterpreted to mean they approve E15 as that blend could consist of higher percentages of ethanol. Still, Drengenberg said their new approval rating "could help in the long run," and that UL researchers are committed to advanced technology and continued research of higher percentages of ethanol.