U.S. EPA reviews E15 waiver request comments

By Kris Bevill | August 10, 2009
The U.S. EPA is currently reviewing thousands of comments received in response to a waiver request submitted earlier this year by Growth Energy and dozens of other industry groups, asking the agency to increase the allowable ethanol content of gasoline to 15 percent. The public commentary period, initially set to expire May 27, was extended by the EPA to July 20 following a National Corn Growers Association request to allow Midwest farmers a fair chance to participate in the commentary process. The EPA is set to issue its final decision by Dec. 1.

Interested parties took advantage of the extension and filed last-minute comments, both for and against the ethanol increase. 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 Renewable Fuels Association submitted multiple studies in support of the ethanol increase on the final day of the comment period. The RFA stated that, while the original request contained substantial data to support the waiver request, additional data had become available and served to support the request. The group urged the EPA to also consider ongoing project results as they become available prior to the agency's deadline for a decision.

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association commented that its extensive experience with various blends of ethanol validated its recommendation that the EPA allow the ethanol increase. "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.

Proponents of the waiver are hopeful that even if the E15 waiver is not approved, the request will open the door to lesser ethanol rates perhaps E12. The RFA said the EPA already has the authority to approve E12 if it defines the blend as being "substantially similar" to E10.

Dave Vander Griend, president and CEO of ICM Inc. and 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 advanced 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."