Industry still waiting on E15 decision

By Holly Jessen | September 23, 2010
Posted Oct. 4, 2010

After multiple delays, the U.S. EPA is expected in mid-October to unveil its decision to approve 15 percent ethanol in gasoline. The full decision for older vehicles won't come until later, however. "Based on comments made by administration officials, we anticipate an announcement on cars 2007 and newer will be made within the next two weeks and an announcement for cars 2001 to 2006 will be made by the end of the year," said Stephanie Dreyer, Growth Energy public affairs associate.

Growth Energy first submitted the Green Jobs Waiver in March 2009, requesting that the blend limit be lifted from E10 to E15. The decision has been delayed multiple times since then.

On Sept. 13, Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, spoke to Growth Energy on a variety of subjects, including E15. The EPA's decision is "directly linked" to the U.S. DOE test program on the impacts of E15 on vehicles.

Growth Energy learned that, in all, the DOE has spent $43 million on E15 testing, Dreyer said. "We were also told that the DOE is working around the clock' to get these tests completed so we anticipate that the deadlines we have been provided with will be met," she said.

The first phase of testing is on 19 vehicle models, years 2007 and newer, Jackson said. The testing of vehicle models built between 2001 and 2006 is expected to be completed at the end of November. "In conjunction with the waiver decisions EPA will also move forward on a rule to provide for proper fuel labeling to reduce the potential misfueling," she said. "As with all of our actions we intend to take these deliberately and actions based on all of the information necessary to make a sound decision that will serve the public interest."

The Renewable Fuels Association is continuing to call the two-phased decision a "deeply flawed approach." The concern is that if E15 is approved only for newer cars it will cause confusion in the marketplace.

In July, RFA joined the National Corn Growers Association and the American Coalition for Ethanol in sending a letter to the EPA, encouraging the agency to formally approve the use of E12 for all vehicles immediately, while waiting on the final E15 decision. The groups have repeatedly pointed out that fuels with oxygen content equivalent to E12 were previously approved.

Mike Irmen, director of ethanol services for The Andersons Inc., recently told EPM the company agrees that E12 should be approved immediately, while waiting on the E15 approval. "The product is substantially similar and will integrate seamlessly into the existing motor fuel distributions system," he said. "It has been tested far more stringently than any other fuel change in history. It would allow for increased ethanol demand immediately, but only if it is economical. Blenders would only use more if it either increased their margin or made their product less expensive to consumers at the pump."

E15 also came up at the annual gathering of RFA, held Sept. 30. Heather Zichal, U.S. President Barack Obama's deputy assistant for energy and climate change policy, assured attendees that a decision was expected soon. "If approved, we think this would be a very positive step for the industry and will help in our efforts to reach our biofuels goals," she said.