The ethanol industry is taking the opposition to task for what it calls "stall tactics” by environmental groups opposing a proposed increase in the alternative fuel's blend rates. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to rule this summer on increasing approved blend rates from 10% to 15%.
Saying the industry is confident that an increased rate will be approved, Matt Hartwig, public affairs director at the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), says the fear is the blend rate won't be broad enough to fully impact all automotive makes.
"EPA has indicated they are looking to grant what would be a partial waiver, limiting the use of E15 to model years of 2001 and newer. Such a bifurcation of the vehicle market and the fuel market would create, in our opinion, a host of unnecessary challenges to the retailers trying to offer the fuel. It may very well limit the amount of E15 being sold.”
Citing science and data that supports RFA's position, Hartwig says his group is confident that an E15 blend is safe for any model-year vehicle. "EPA has yet to offer any kind of scientific justification for limiting E15 blends to model years 2001 and newer.”
Myriad challenges exist for retailers if the E15 blend is approved on only newer-model cars, Hartwig says. Having two blends, with one being the mandated E10 blend, would potentially require retailers to have a separate E15 pump, which has been a challenge with E85. If E15 is not approved for earlier-model vehicles, there is concern about people accidentally putting an unapproved blend into their tanks.
Meanwhile, the RFA and other renewable fuels organizations and farm groups continue to lobby for increased blend rates with information supportive of the industry. In a news release issued Tuesday, RFA used the following information as a counterattack to the latest assault from the environmental community:
- Subsidies for ethanol in 2008 totaled $4.5 billion, compared to $550 billion of subsidies the worldwide fossil fuels industry received.
- Ethanol production added more than $15 billion to federal, state and local tax coffers in 2009.
- According to the scientific journal Biotechnology Letters, ethanol has increased yields 5.3% in the last decade while decreasing water use by 32% and energy use by 28%.