Big Oil, other industries work to delay E15

By Holly Jessen | August 27, 2010
Posted Sept. 1, 2010

Once again, various industry groups are doing what they can to slow the implementation of E15. And once again, Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association and the American Coalition for Ethanol, are responding swiftly to back the blend increase.

The push against approving E15 has heated up in recent weeks. The U.S. EPA delayed the E15 decision until sometime this fall and industry groups on both sides of the issue have been waiting on pins and needles for the answer.

On Aug. 25 a group of 39 industries, including motor vehicle, energy, food, power equipment and recreational industry representatives, sent letters requesting Congressional hearings on E15, saying there was a need for thorough and objective scientific testing before allowing a blend increase. As of Sept. 1, a meeting had yet to be scheduled.

By Aug. 31 the American Petroleum Institute, one of the 39 groups that sent the letters, has released a study it commissioned to support its argument against E15. The study, called "Identification and Review of State/Federal Legislative and Regulatory Changes Required for the Introduction of New Transportation Fuels" was conducted by Sierra Research.

"Our study found that the introduction of higher-level blends into the marketplace is not simple or straightforward," said Jim Lyons, a senior partner at Sierra Research " There are many changes that need to be made to federal, state, and local requirements as well as issues with vehicle warranties and the country's fuel distribution and marketing infrastructure. EPA needs to recognize and consider these issues in addition to waiting for all of the emissions and performance data to be collected."

Using E10 as an example, the study concluded that there are nine steps required before a "widespread introduction" of E15. They are:

1. A waiver of Clean Air Act pre-emption under Section 211(f);
2. Registration of the fuel with EPA;
3. Changes to EPA Reformulated Gasoline regulations;
4. Changes to EPA Gasoline Detergent Additive regulations;
5. Changes to the Clean Air Act and EPA regulations if the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) Allowance granted to E10 is going to be provided to E10+ blends;
6. Changes to federal fuel rating and labeling requirements;
7. Changes to ASTM and National Institute of Standards and Technology specifications for commercial fuels;
8. Changes to a myriad of state fuel requirements, with the number and nature of those changes varying from state to state; and
9. Changes in equipment and operating practices in the gasoline transportation and distribution system, including pipelines, storage tanks, and retail dispensing facilities.

"Many of these changes must occur prior to the initial sale of a new transportation fuel, while a few can be subsequently addressed," the study said. "The period of time estimated to be required for the completion of all of the above changes is on the order of several years."

Growth Energy responded that the EPA must first approve the fuel before state laws and regulations are updated. "In the meantime, we are not surprised that the people profiting from the status quo want to keep it that way," said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. "We have been dependent on foreign oil for 40 years—sending $300 billion a year overseas to other countries' economies—and these delays will only perpetuate our addiction."

He also reiterated that the Growth Energy Green Jobs Waiver submitted to EPA for the E15 waiver contained sound science that supports the use of E15 in existing vehicles. "In fact, there has been more testing of E15 than there has been of any other fuel additive in the history of the EPA waiver process," he said. "Curiously, API's report did not offer any evidence to the contrary."

Matt Hartwig, communications director for RFA, disagreed that the EPA should wait until the nine steps are completed before it can approve the use of E15. Instead, those actions need to be taken before the fuel can be marketed and are already being worked on. "They can attempt to drag their feet until the cows come home but it won't change the fact that E15 is a safe and effective fuel for vehicle use," he said. "Instead of constantly referring to the few challenges that can easily be overcome, it would be far more effective for Big Oil to work with ethanol producers to address them in a timely fashion - that is assuming they truly want to act in the best interests of American consumers."

Brian Jennings, executive vice president of ACE, injected some humor into the situation. "I am shocked, shocked that a study paid for by Big Oil suggests there are ‘concerns' with the introduction of E15 to the fuel system and that EPA should further delay their decision on E15," he said. "Big Oil, the junk food lobby, and other special interests who benefit from the status quo of limiting the use of ethanol in gasoline will pull out all the stops to prevent consumers from having a meaningful fuel choice. ACE remains confident that all cars should be approved to use E15 and we encourage EPA to render such a decision sooner rather than later."