The initial step in getting more ethanol in the nation's fuel supply was officially announced today, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcing they are approving gasoline containing 15% ethanol (E15) for 2007 and newer cars and light trucks.
The "official" decision is that EPA has "waived a limitation on selling fuel that is more than 10% ethanol for model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. The waiver applies to fuel that contains up to 15% ethanol – known as E15 – and only to model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks."
The decision announced today came 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," EPA said in a release.
But there are still more ethanol decisions to come. EPA said that whether to allow 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."
But one set of engines you won't be able to use E15 in is those model year 2000 and older cars and light trucks. And, EPA has not approved (and said they wouldn't approve this year) E15 for "any motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles, or non-road engines."
One of the biggest issues for this decision is whether consumers will put the right fuel in their vehicle. EPA said they are 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.
So do you have to use E15? No, according to Gina McCarthy, EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation. "EPA is not requiring the use of E15," McCarthy stressed. "EPA does not have the authority to require its use." But the decision will allow use of E15 "where and when that is available."
Approving E15 for 2007 and newer cars and light trucks "was an appropriate decision for the agency to make under our jurisdiction under the Clean Air Act," McCarthy said.
Actions on biofuels in individual states is another reason why EPA moved ahead with today's announcement, McCarthy said. "The federal government is not the only entity to make these decisions. One of the signals we're trying to send is that while we made the waiver decision, others will need to be made at the individual state level." Some states like Minnesota has set their own requirements relative to the percentage of ethanol allowed in the fuel supply.
What's the reaction? Predictable in most cases.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack: "Today's announcement from EPA is an important step toward making America more energy independent and creating much-needed jobs in rural America. The announcement will help get existing ethanol capacity into the market. Increasing the use of ethanol in automobiles and light trucks not only provides biomass and biofuel producers with additional revenue enhancing opportunities, it will help us reach the Obama Administration's goal of increasing renewable fuels usage in the U.S. marketplace to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Today's action by Administrator Jackson and the EPA provides assurance to farmers, ranchers and the renewable fuels industry that the government backs the use of home grown energy in our cars and trucks. At the same time, more work is needed and we hope EPA and the Department of Energy complete an evaluation of 2001-2006 models soon."
National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Ethanol Task Force Chairman Randy Spronk: "The National Pork Producers Council is very concerned with the effect on America’s pork producers of raising to 15 percent the amount of corn ethanol that can be blended into gasoline, a decision the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today. NPPC is withholding comment on raising the blend rate to E15 from its current E10 until we can consult with our economists. But any upward pressure on corn prices will have a negative effect on producers. Given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Oct. 8 crop report revised down the expected yield and ending stocks of corn, we’re already seeing corn prices and the cost of raising a hog heading up."
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson: "We are pleased that the EPA has finally reached a decision regarding the E15 waiver and will permit 2007 model year and newer vehicles to run on a 15 percent ethanol blend. This decision means 18 percent of the fleet, or 43 million vehicles, will be able to use a cleaner fuel blend. America’s farmers and ranchers continue to provide real energy solutions to help us achieve greater energy independence and economic security. NFU policy supports safe and sustainable production and use of biofuels, and the use of ethanol as a fuel additive for gasoline."
Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President Bob Dinneen: "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."
Here's a link to EPA's site on E15, where you can access all the information related to today's announcement.