Many weigh in on E15 waiver issue

By Holly Jessen | June 10, 2010
With the U.S. EPA expected to announce its decision on the E15 waiver late this summer, many have put in their two cents.

The auto and oil industries have asked the EPA to delay action on the E15 waiver. Based on preliminary results of a testing program for use of blends higher than E10 with non-flex-fuel vehicles (FFV), those groups say higher blends of ethanol have not been proven safe or effective. A joint statement from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute and Outdoor Power Equipment Institute said, "As the EPA proceeds with important decisions about ethanol and biofuel blend rates, it is imperative that those decisions be made with the end user market in mind."

Growth Energy said an auto and oil industry-funded Coordinated Research Council study was inconclusive and incomplete. The study has only tested eight engines and, of those, only four are 100 percent complete, said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. "It would be foolish to accept these results as fact," he said. "The EPA has told us in writing that they intend to complete their testing on E15 before making a decision, and we are confident they will," Buis added. "We are also confident that the testing will show what we already know: that E15 can run just fine in today's modern engines, all while creating well-paying jobs here in America."

The EPA said in December that the early results of its studies showed that E15 would workat least for 2001 and newer model year vehicles. Many in the industry have said a system where only newer vehicles could use higher blends of ethanol would be challenging. Archer Daniels Midland Co., for one, is advocating going to E11 or E12 for smoother implementation on the way to higher blend levels, according to Patricia Woertz, executive chairman and CEO of ADM. For every 1 percent increase in the blend wall, Woertz said, it would add about 1.3 billion additional gallons of ethanol.

The Renewable Fuels Association is also advocating that the EPA immediately allow for the blending of E12 in short-term response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The RFA repeated that it believes that oxygenate stacking rules, allowed by the Clean Air Act, already allow for flexibility to blend up to 12 percent oxygenate, including ethanol. Bob Dinneen, RFA president, tackled the subject in a letter written to President Barack Obama on May 5. The RFA also is advocating that the EPA grant the E15 waiver this summer, as soon as DOE testing is completed. Like ADM, the RFA doesn't want to see only a partial waiver for E15 only in newer vehicles, which it said would be confusing and limiting. "To date, EPA has provided no scientific justification for such a limit on the waiver," Dinneen said. "We believe no such restriction exists and as such EPA should move as expeditiously as prudent to approve the full waiver."

In addition, RFA has urged the EPA to approve a waiver for volatility tolerance of 1 pound per square inch (psi) for Reid Vapor Pressure standards that refer to the volatility of fuel, specifically addressing evaporative emissions. Extending the 1 psi volatility waiver to E15 would ensure fuel suppliers have the necessary gasoline blendstock with which to blend up to 15 percent ethanol. Currently, there is a waiver only for E10. "Given the benefits of ethanol from an air quality perspective and in light of Congress' dictates in the RFS to reduce dependence on oil and expand renewable fuels, it is important for the agency to take the regulatory action necessary to allow for higher ethanol blends to reach the marketplace," Dineen said.

In March, Dresser Wayne and Gilbarco Veeder-Root received Underwriters Laboratory certification for E25 for specific fuel dispensersthe first fuel dispensers UL certified for anything above E10. Now, the companies have said their standard fuel dispensers have warranties for up to E15.

Dresser Wayne warranties have always covered up to E15, the company said. "The E15 warranty resulted from Dresser Wayne's confidence that the metals and seals used in Wayne dispensers are compatible up to E15 fuel," said Scott Negley, director of alternative energy products at Dresser Wayne. "We cover all of our equipment, legacy and otherwise, through that warranty."

Gilbarco Veeder-Root upgraded the warranty on its standard fuel dispensers, including those approved by UL, for ethanol up to E10, in March. "Our customers can be confident that Gilbarco and Gasboy will honor warranty claims and otherwise support the dispensers they have recently purchased or are considering, should the blending standards change to E15," said Richard Browne, vice president of marketing, North America at Gilbarco Veeder-Root.