Wednesday, October 13, 2010

EPA Grants E15 Ethanol Waiver For 2007 And Newer Vehicles

Oct 13: U.S. EPA waived a limitation on selling fuel that is more than 10 percent ethanol for model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. The waiver applies to fuel that contains up to 15 percent ethanol -- known as E15 -- and only to model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. EPA said this represents the first of a number of actions that are needed from Federal, state and industry towards commercialization of E15 gasoline blends. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson made the decision after a review of the Department of Energy's (DOE's) extensive testing and other available data on E15's impact on engine durability and emissions. Jackson said, "Thorough testing has now shown that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks. Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America's vehicles, this administration takes those steps."

    A decision on the use of E15 in model year 2001 to 2006 vehicles will be made after EPA receives the results of additional DOE testing, which is expected to be completed in November. However, EPA said no waiver is being granted this year for E15 use in model year 2000 and older cars and light trucks -- or in any motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles, or non-road engines -- because currently there is not testing data to support such a waiver. Since 1979, up to 10 percent ethanol or E10 has been used for all conventional cars and light trucks, and non-road vehicles. Additionally, EPA said several steps are being taken to help consumers easily identify the correct fuel for their vehicles and equipment. First, EPA is proposing E15 pump labeling requirements, including a requirement that the fuel industry specify the ethanol content of gasoline sold to retailers. There would also be a quarterly survey of retail stations to help ensure their gas pumps are properly labeled.
    EPA said this "partial waiver" will allow fuel and fuel additive manufacturers to introduce into commerce gasoline that contains greater than 10 volume percent (vol%) ethanol and up to 15 vol% ethanol (E15) for use in certain motor vehicles once certain other conditions are fulfilled. EPA said, "It is important to remember that there are a number of additional steps that must be completed – some of which are not under EPA control – to allow the sale and distribution of E-15. These include but are not limited to submission of a complete E15 fuels registration application by industry, and changes to some states' laws to allow for the use of E15."

    The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandated an increase in the overall volume of renewable fuels into the marketplace reaching a 36 billion gallon total in 2022. Ethanol is considered a renewable fuel because it is produced from plant products or wastes and not from fossil fuels. Ethanol is blended with gasoline for use in most areas across the country.

    The E15 petition was submitted to EPA by Growth Energy and 54 ethanol manufacturers in March 2009. In April 2009, EPA sought public comment on the petition and received about 78,000 comments. The petition was submitted under a Clean Air Act provision that allows EPA to waive the act's prohibition against the sale of a significantly altered fuel if the petitioner shows that the new fuel will not cause or contribute to the failure of the engine parts that ensure compliance with the act's emissions limits.
    On July 29, a bipartisan group of House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), and Ranking Members Joe Barton (R-TX) and Fred Upton (R-MI) urged EPA to reject the use of E15 . The legislators action reinforced an effort by environmental and industry groups, calling on Congress to require thorough and objective scientific testing before allowing an increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline [See WIMS 7/22/10].

    Also, on September 28, a diverse group of 23 environmental, consumer, food, auto and other industry organizations asked U.S. EPA to deny a request by ethanol manufacturers seeking authorization for the sale of gasoline containing 12 percent ethanol (E12). The groups include, among many others, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), National Consumers League, Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, National Marine Manufacturers Association, and Grocery Manufacturers Association [See WIMS 9/29/10].
    The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) issued a release today (October 13) advising outdoor power equipment users to be aware of new fuel coming on the market with higher levels of ethanol that could harm equipment sitting in their garages, tool sheds and maintenance buildings. Over two hundred million pieces of outdoor power equipment could be at risk of product failure or voided warranty, including chainsaws, lawnmowers, utility vehicles, generators, snow throwers, trimmers, edgers, pruners, chippers, shredders and blowers. OPEI said, "Consumers need to be aware that until today, the maximum allowable limit of ethanol in gasoline was E10 or 10%. That means, all engine products in use today, with the exception of 'flex-fuel' automobiles, were designed, built and warranted to run on gasoline containing no more than 10% ethanol. Use of E15 or higher ethanol blended fuels in any engine product, with the exception of a 'flex-fuel' automobile, could cause performance issues, damage engines, and void the manufacturer's warranty."
    On October 6, the Say NO to Untested E15 campaign announced that more than 22,000 Americans had e-mailed President Obama urging him to stop EPA from approving the 50 percent increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline "until comprehensive, independent and objective scientific testing can show that higher ethanol levels will not increase air pollution, harm engines or raise consumer safety issues." The group said, "EPA, which has been pressured by some in the ethanol industry to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline from the current 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15). . ." They said, ". . .ethanol burns hotter than pure gasoline, corrodes soft metals, and damages plastics and rubber. As a result, more ethanol in gasoline could have serious effects on engine performance and raises potential safety concerns."
    The American Petroleum Institute (API) Director of Downstream Operations, Bob Greco, issued a statement saying, "It is disappointing that the EPA did not wait until the testing process was complete to determine if higher levels of ethanol are safe. From data already gathered, use of higher ethanol in gasoline has revealed several areas of concern. EPA needs to make sure that a new fuel is safe for consumers. Rushing through this new fuel standard without complete research may be good politics but is bad public policy. The large majority of today's vehicle warranties only cover gasoline with up to 10 percent ethanol.  More ethanol in gasoline could result in the voiding of customer warranties. The EPA also seems to believe that a label on the pump will keep consumers safe from misfueling, but the impacts of misfueling are unknown until the necessary research is completed. . ."
    The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) issued a release saying that "EPA is missing an opportunity to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and create new economic opportunity by limiting its decision on E15 (15% ethanol/85% gasoline) to only model year (MY) 2007 and newer vehicles." RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said, "EPA's scientifically unjustified bifurcation of the U.S. car market will do little to move the needle and expand ethanol use today. Limiting E15 use to 2007 and newer vehicles only creates confusion for retailers and consumers alike. America's ethanol producers are hitting an artificial blend wall today. The goals of Congress to reduce our addiction to oil captured in the Renewable Fuels Standard cannot be met with this decision."
    Dinneen also pointed out what he called the "apparent legal and scientific disconnect" inherent in EPA's outright denial for MY2000 and older vehicles. He said, "EPA is providing no scientific justification for its decision to bifurcate the market. It's almost as though they pulled the number out of a hat. As test after test has demonstrated, E15 is safe and effective in all light duty vehicles. . . on January 1, 2011, vehicles MY2000 and older will all be out of warranty coverage and beyond their useful lives, thus putting them beyond the regulation of EPA. EPA's overreach to deny E15 for use in vehicles over which they no longer have jurisdiction is beyond puzzling."
    On September 15, RFA released a new "comprehensive engineering analysis" prepared for the association (RFA) and performed by Ricardo, Inc, an internationally recognized engineering firm indicating that, "moving from 10 percent ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent will mean little, if any, change on the performance of older cars and light trucks, those manufactured between 1994 and 2000." [See WIMS 9/16/10].
    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access extensive information on the E15 waiver from EPA (click here). Access a release from OPEI with links to more information (click here). Access more information on the campaign -- called "Say NO to Untested E15" -- (click here). Access the statement from API (click here). Access a lengthy release from RFA (click here). Access a release from RFA and link to its complete September 15 report (click here).