Governors' Biofuels Coalition pushes for E15 fuel waiver

By Erin Voegele | July 08, 2009
North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, chairman of the Governors' Biofuels Coalition, spoke with U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to request that Jackson expedite the consideration of an E15 fuel waiver and increase the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent.

The fuel waiver request was filed with the EPA on March 6 by Growth Energy and a group of 54 ethanol producers. A 60-day comment period on the waiver request was originally scheduled to end on May 21. At the urging of the National Corn Growers Association, which said farmers in the Corn Belt would be working extended hours throughout the duration of the comment period and may not be able to participate, the EPA announced in May the comment period would be extended an additional 60 days, until July 20.

"The nation needs greater energy independence, and domestic ethanol producers need a boost under current market conditions," Hoeven said. "Increasing the proportion of ethanol to 15 percent would move us closer to both goals." Jackson said she will work to move the process forward expeditiously and noted that the EPA must respond to the request by December.

According to Hoeven, a move to E15 would help expand the market for domestically produced biofuels. On Feb. 17, he issued a letter to President Barack Obama, asking that he take action of five specific biofuels initiatives.

In the letter, Hoeven requested that Obama articulate a vision for the nation's biofuels future. "As convinced as the governors are about the value of biofuels, misinformation from entrenched interests has done a great disservice to America," the letter stated. "A continued, straight-forward message from your administration to the American people on the role of biofuels is necessary."

Hoeven also asked that the president initiate an immediate substantially similar ruling from the EPA on E13. Such a ruling would immediately expand the market for domestically produced biofuels.

In addition, the letter requested that Obama establish an interagency task force on life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions and transportation fuel, create new policy options that continue to increase the sustainability of biofuels feedstock production, and implement the nation's first comprehensive biofuel market development program.

On May 27, Obama issued a letter to Hoeven in response. In his letter, the president states that he appreciates the excellent work that the Governors' Biofuels Coalition has been doing to educate policy makers and the public about the importance of transitioning the nation from its reliance on petroleum-based fuels to a sustainable, low carbon future.

While Obama did not address Hoeven's request to initiate a substantially similar ruling from the EPA on E15, he did note that the suggestions outlined in Hoeven's letter were helpful in developing the Presidential Biofuels Directive that was issued in May, establishing an interagency working group on biofuels. The group, which consists of members of the USDA, U.S. DOE and the EPA, is tasked with expediting advanced biofuels research and commercialization. The group will also work to evaluate roadblocks to the continued development of biofuels, and determine ways in which they can be reduced or eliminated.

"My administration is committed to moving as quickly as possible to commercialize an array of emerging cellulosic technologies so that tomorrow's biofuels will be produced from sustainable biomass feedstocks and waste materials rather than corn," Obama wrote. "But this transition will be successful only if the first-generation biofuels industry remains viable in the near-term, and if we remove long-standing artificial barriers to market expansion necessary for large volumes of advanced renewable fuels to find a place in America's transportation fuels system."