Groups launch new campaign against E15

By Kris Bevill | July 15, 2010
Posted July 22, 2010

Environmental organizations, small engine manufacturers, food manufacturers and petroleum associations have teamed up to launch a new ad campaign urging Congress and the U.S. EPA to prevent the widespread use of E15. The first ad, titled "Say NO to untested E15," makes the claim that E15 will cause automobile and recreational engines to stall and directs Congress not to "rush to judgment based on politics." The groups claim that more testing needs to be conducted before an increase in ethanol blends should be approved.

"Some ethanol companies want consumers to pump first and ask questions later," said Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association. "Rather than run a giant science experiment on the vehicles and gasoline-powered equipment owned by just about every American family, we believe Congress and the EPA have a responsibility to protect the public. They shouldn't authorize E15 unless full and complete scientific testing confirms it's safe and compatible with all gasoline-powered engines."

Nathanael Greene, director of renewable energy policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said his organization is concerned about possible health risks caused as a result of increased ethanol use, among other things. "As environmentalists and public health advocates, we're concerned that more corn ethanol in our gasoline would lead to more dangerous pollutants coming out our tailpipes and ending up in our lungs, cause more forests to be cut down for planting, put fragile lands under the tractor and use up scarce water resources," he said.

The groups claim that E15 testing currently being conducted by the U.S. DOE does not cover engine durability, tolerance of the "check-engine" light, durability of fuel pumps and fuel lever sensors; and vapor leakage from parked cars.

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, which filed the initial E15 waiver request last March, said those claims are "ludicrous" and that the DOE is conducting extensive testing. "We submitted the Green Jobs Waiver with the understanding that we met the statutory requirements of the Clean Air Act," he said. "We submitted more data, scientific evidence, auto industry reports and other third-party affirmation than has been required in the history of the EPA waiver process."

In December, the EPA sent a letter to Growth Energy stating that initial testing showed E15 had no negative effects on vehicle models beginning with model year 2001, causing speculation that the agency might approve a partial waiver and allow E15 to be used only in newer vehicles. In June, Archer Daniels Midland Co. submitted a formal request to the EPA seeking approval for E12 as a hedge against a negative decision regarding E15. On July 20, ADM supplied the EPA with additional data supporting its request for E12. "ADM continues to believe that the E15 waiver requested by Growth Energy is the ideal next step to ensure America's energy and economic security," the company said in a statement. "Allowing only some cars to use E15 would discourage adoption of E15 by retailers and consumers. For these reasons, if the EPA won't allow E15 for all cars, we believe an E12 decision for all vehicles would provide an immediate impact on the marketplace, and would be the next best thing for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and creating jobs in rural America."

The EPA is expected to issue its final decision regarding the E15 waiver this fall. The coalition of groups opposed to E15 said they are conducting their own tests on E15, but don't expect results for several years.