One Foot in Front of the Other

E15 waiver approved, more work to do before fuel widely available.
By Holly Jessen | February 15, 2011

With part two of the U.S. EPA’s two-step approval process completed on Jan. 21, the E15 waiver now covers vehicles starting with model year 2001 through the current year. The industry reacted to the news with enthusiasm tempered by the need to keep moving forward.

The National Corn Growers joined others such as the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy in spreading that message. “While there is still plenty of work to be done, NCGA is pleased the EPA has taken this important step forward,” said NCGA Chairman Darrin Ihnen, a South Dakota corn grower.  “NCGA and its ethanol industry allies will continue our work to educate the public on the use of higher blends of ethanol in vehicles.”

The E15 waiver does not make the fuel legal for sale and use immediately. Until a number of federal, state and industry-required steps are completed, E15 is only legal for use in flex-fuel vehicles. One of those steps is for fuel manufacturers to register E15 with EPA, which is also finalizing work on an E15 label.

With the E15 waiver approved, many looked ahead to the need to build out ethanol infrastructure. “We commend the EPA’s decision to raise the amount of ethanol that can be blended into our fuel from E10 to E15,” said Glenn Nedwin, executive vice president of Genencor, a Division of Danisco. “It was the right action to take and an essential one. The EPA action expands the market opportunity for ethanol producers and will accelerate the deployment and availability of biofuels to more consumer markets across the country. Building the ethanol fueling infrastructure is important to achieving greater economic, environmental and energy security benefits.”

Others pointed to the need to approve E15 for 2000 and older vehicles, which were not tested by the U.S. DOE as newer model years were. In addition, the EPA said it would not be granting a waiver this year for E15 in any motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles or nonroad engines. “This is definitely a step in the right direction, but North Dakota’s ethanol industry encourages EPA approval of E15 for all vehicles, thus providing a more streamlined process and less confusion for retail marketers and consumers,” said Jeff Zueger, chairman of the North Dakota Ethanol Council. 

—Holly Jessen