EPA: Outreach critical to mitigate E15 misuse

By Kris Bevill | October 14, 2010
Posted Oct. 18, 2010

Following its Oct. 13 decision to allow E15 to be used in 2007 and newer vehicles, the EPA said consumer outreach will be critical to prevent misfueling and ethanol producers will be expected to lead education programs. "The potential for E15 misfueling incidents exists because consumers tend to choose the lowest priced fuel, and E15 may cost less than E10 since ethanol currently tends to be less expensive than gasoline," the agency stated in its proposed E15 label rule.

Ethanol producers, refiners, automobile and engine manufacturers, fuel distributors and state and federal government agencies will be expected to participate in an industry-led education and outreach effort, the agency stated. Possible programs could include creating a central clearinghouse to answer technical questions related to E15, promoting best practices and developing educational materials for the public. The EPA said it has also received suggestions to create an informational website that would warn consumers of the potential impacts of E15 on older vehicles and other unapproved vehicles, such as motorcycles and heavy-duty trucks. If a website is created, it was suggested the address should be printed on E15 labels.

The EPA's proposed E15 label states that the fuel contains 15 percent ethanol maximum and that it should be used only in 2007 and newer light-duty vehicle models. The agency said it anticipates determining whether 2001 and newer vehicles will be allowed to use E15 before it finalizes the proposed labeling rule, therefore it also included a sample label stating that E15 should only be used in 2001 and newer vehicles.

Other label considerations proposed in the rule address blender pumps and E10. The agency suggested that only retail stations which offer E15 should also be required to label E10. Retail stations that choose not to sell E15 would not be required to display E10 labels. Two options were proposed for blender pump labels. The first displays the general range of ethanol blends offered at the pump by labeling it "E15-E85." The second option specifically states the percentage of ethanol offered at that particular pump, such as E30. If this more specific option is finalized, station owners with pumps that offer a range of ethanol blends would be required to display multiple labels for each blend available at that pump.

Ethanol producers, ethanol blenders and fuel manufacturers will share responsibility for ensuring that labels are properly used at fueling stations, the agency said. The three groups will also be responsible for conducting fuel pump labeling surveys at retail stations to check ethanol blend ratios and labeling practices.

The agency said it believes its proposed misfueling mitigation strategies will be effective at preventing unauthorized use of E15. New ethanol blend labels are expected to cost the fuel retailer $5 per label. Combined with the one-time costs of product transfer document requirements and the annual cost of survey requirements, the EPA estimates the total cost of its proposed requirements will be $3.65 million per year. Comments will be accepted on the proposed rule for 60 days after it is posted to the Federal Register. The EPA has also scheduled a public hearing to discuss the proposal. The hearing will be held Nov. 16 in Chicago. For more information on the rule, visit epa.gov.