E15 use limited to FFVs until regulations final

By Holly Jessen | October 14, 2010
Posted Nov. 1, 2010

Just because the U.S. EPA on Oct. 13 approved a partial waiver for E15 in vehicle models 2007 and newer doesn't mean the fuel is ready to hit retail stations. The waiver was just a first step in a detailed process to bring the fuel to the marketplace.

The Renewable Fuels Association and the Petroleum Marketers Association of America teamed up to broadcast this message in an Oct. 28 joint press release. E15 sales should be limited to flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) until the necessary regulations are finalized and put into place. "There are a cadre of regulations, standards, and labeling issues that must be addressed to allow retailers to legally offer E15 to those non-flexible fuel vehicles the EPA has approved," the groups said.

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis agreed. "We've tried to tell everyone from day one, EPA's decision on the waiver today doesn't mean you're going to see E15 the next day in the fueling stations, except for maybe flex fuel vehicles that can burn it," he said.

One of the steps that have yet to be completed is health effects testing on the difference between E10 and E15. RFA and Growth Energy are working together on that project and expect to submit the results to EPA in the next few weeks, Buis said.

Recently, there have been reports of retailers installing E15 buttons in blender pumps. RFA and PMAA reminded its members that it is "still unlawful" to sell E15 for use in anything other than FFVs. Besides health effects testing, state fuel regulations must be updated and EPA's proposed misfueling and labeling regulations need to be finalized. "E-15 will provide consumers and marketers another option to maximize their domestic renewable fuel use," the press release stated. "But failing to adhere to the legal steps required to do so may give our fuel products and our industries an unnecessary and avoidable black eye."

Although there are a lot of variables, Buis said EPA may make a decision on 2001-'06 model year vehicles by mid- December, if the agency follows the same pattern it did for 2007 and newer vehicles. Following that decision, he expects the work on E15 regulations to wrap up in the first quarter of 2011.