U.S. EPA approves E15 for older vehicles

WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Jan. 21 waived a limitation on selling gasoline that contains more than 10% ethanol for model year (MY) 2001 through 2006 passenger vehicles, including cars, SUVs and light pickup trucks.

The waiver applies to fuel that contains up to 15% ethanol known as E15. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson made the decision after a review of the Department of Energy’s thorough testing and other available data on E15’s effect on emissions from MY 2001 through 2006 cars and light trucks.

“Recently completed testing and data analysis show that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks,” Jackson said. “Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America’s vehicles, this administration takes those steps.”

On Oct. 13, 2010, EPA approved a waiver allowing the use of E15 for MY 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. At that time, EPA denied a request to allow the use of E15 for MY 2000 and older vehicles and postponed its decision on the use of E15 in MY 2001 to 2006 cars and light trucks until DOE completed additional testing for those model years.

The agency also announced that no waiver is being granted this year for E15 use in any motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles or non-road engines because current testing data does not support such a waiver.

Ethanol industry leaders said the decision was a move in the right direction, but significant hurdles still remain before consumers can start using the higher ethanol blend.

“Research supports approval of E15 for all vehicles. We knew this two years ago when the industry submitted the waiver,” said Rob Skjonsberg, POET senior vice-president of public policy and corporate affairs. “This is a necessary first step, but we have to move toward a market that allows competition. POET supports Growth Energy’s Fueling Freedom plan (http://www.growthenergy.org/ethanol-issues-policy/fueling-freedom-plan/), which opens the fuel market through expansion of blender pumps and Flex Fuel Vehicles. E15, along with the Fueling Freedom Plan, provides real consumer choice and is the only realistic plan to get off our dependence on imported oil.”

“Practical hurdles must still be overcome, particularly E15 labeling, yet this decision should someday result in additional market access for ethanol-blended fuel and will have a more meaningful impact on moving the demand needle since vehicles 2001 and newer represent nearly 60% of the U.S. vehicle fleet,” said Brian Jennings, executive vice-president of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE). “To make sure that consumers do not continue to be mislead by those who want to protect the oil industry’s 90% gasoline mandate, EPA must also inform consumers that this decision was the result of extensive testing — testing that has delayed this decision nearly two years — and that motorists can feel confident that they can safely use cleaner burning E15 in their vehicles.

“We are pleased with this positive step, but remain concerned about the unnecessary confusion that will unfortunately be caused by EPA’s piecemeal, partial-waiver approach. We restate what we said on October 13, 2010, that EPA should act swiftly to approve the use of E15 in all vehicles. With gas prices set to rise significantly in 2011, more ethanol-blended fuel via E15 will help keep fuel prices affordable for all Americans. “

EPA is developing requirements to ensure that E15 is properly labeled at the gas pump. The label will be designed to prevent refueling into vehicles, engines, and equipment not currently approved for the higher ethanol blend.

EPA granted the waiver after considering the E15 petition submitted 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.

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