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Ethanol industry pushes back against legislation to block E15

By Holly Jessen | February 15, 2013

On Feb. 14, U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced legislation that would overturn U.S. EPA approval of E15 for model year 2001 and newer light duty vehicles.

The ethanol industry jumped in the fray quickly, with the Renewable Fuels Association saying the oil industry is panicked, fighting to preserve its monopoly, tax credits and record-breaking profits. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw called the bill a “big, wet kiss” for the oil industry, calling attention to the fact that the bill was introduced on Valentine’s Day. “Banning a legal product from competing with foreign oil is the ultimate in big government, nanny-state protectionism for the coddled petroleum industry,” he said. “I guess we should no longer be surprised by the lengths Big Oil will go to protect its federal petroleum mandate. E15 is a legal fuel for American motorists to choose, but Big Oil doesn’t want consumers to have that choice.”

If approved, the bill would prohibit the EPA from approving gasoline that contains greater than 10 percent ethanol. Wicker called the E15 waivers flawed and shortsighted. Vitter mentioned the possibility of misfueling, which he said was a concern whether a consumer drives a car, truck, boat, or tractor. “It is irresponsible for EPA to allow E15 without sufficient testing and technical analysis,” he said. “I support an all-inclusive energy strategy, but experimenting before understanding the consequences and potential cost of using E15 is unfair to consumers.”

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of RFA, countered that E15 is the most tested fuel in history. E15’s benefits include reduced toxins and carcinogens in gasoline, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and savings at the gas pump for consumers.

Although the Coordinating Research Council, a non-profit organization funded by automobile and oil companies, has come out with reports claiming E15 causes potential engine problems and fuel system components, the accuracy of those reports has been called into question. In fact, Patrick Davis, DOE Vehicle Technologies Program Manager, wrote a blog posted to the U.S. DOE website that called the results of the first report “significantly flawed.”

The Fuels America coalition also condemned the anti-renewable fuel legislation, saying it would take away consumer choice in order to protect oil companies. “The legislation ignores the millions of miles and years of testing that went into the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of E15,” the group said in a prepared statement. “In fact, E15 is the most tested fuel ever, having been put through the paces enough times to make 12 round trips to the moon.”

The group pointed out that Ford and General Motors have said their new vehicles are compatible with E15. NASCAR also uses E15. “Instead of protecting oil companies, Congress should address what is actually hurting America families and businesses: high gas prices and dependence on oil,” the group said. “Americans deserve a choice when it comes to how they power their cars and trucks, and we need the economic benefits that increasing our use of renewable fuel will continue to deliver.”