E15 comment period ends with rush of activity

By Kris Bevill | July 08, 2009
Report posted July 22, 2009, at 8:52 a.m. CST

Thousands of comments were received by the U.S. EPA in response to a waiver request submitted by Growth Energy and other ethanol industry representatives, asking the agency to increase the allowable ethanol content in gasoline to 15 percent.

The public commentary period, initially set to expire May 27, was extended by the EPA for 60 days in order to allow Midwest farmers a fair chance to participate in the commentary process. The comment period closed July 20. The agency must now review the comments before issuing its final ruling by Dec. 1.

Hundreds of comments, for and against the ethanol increase, were submitted to the EPA on the final day of the comment period. The Alliance for a Safe Alternative Fuels Environment (AllSAFE), a small engine lobby group, filed a 47-page comment in which the group claimed Growth Energy failed to provide any test data or studies to support its waiver request. "Growth Energy has presented very limited data on an unrepresentative and incomplete group of non-road engines, vehicles and equipment," the group stated. The limited scientific evidence that was supplied by Growth Energy was flawed, according to AllSAFE, and should not be considered by the EPA.

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association commented that, as the largest representative organization of the Brazilian ethanol industry, it has extensive experience with various blends of ethanol and recommends that the EPA increase the allowable ethanol content of gasoline. "Nearly a century of Brazilian experience with ethanol blended fuels at 15 percent and higher demonstrates that such fuels can lead to significant environmental and greenhouse gas benefits without environmental concerns or technology modifications that differ from those of E10," the group stated.

In the final hours of the comment period, the Renewable Fuels Association submitted multiple studies in support of the ethanol increase. The RFA stated that while the original request contained substantial data to support the waiver request, additional data became available. The group urged the EPA to also consider ongoing project results as they become available prior to the agency's deadline for a decision.

Dave Vander Griend, ICM Inc. president and CEO and a founding member of Growth Energy, said the approval of ethanol blends greater than 10 percent is essential to the successful implementation of the second stage of the renewable fuel standard and to assist in improving the U.S. economy. Vander Griend commented that if the allowable blend rate were to remain at the "current stagnant rate," the development of advance biofuels will be restricted. "Since its inception in 1995, ICM's mission has been to sustain agriculture through innovation, and along with other industry leaders, we've proven our ability to do just that by producing a clean, affordable and renewable means to reduce imports of foreign sources of oil," he said. "It is incumbent for all stakeholders involved to collaborate and provide continued leadership and seek well-informed policy decisions that will ensure the 36 billion gallon goal is reached, and that a greener, more secure energy future is within reach for all Americans."