After three years of unprecedented fuel testing and regulatory scrutiny, the Obama administration has given its final approval for the sale of E15 ethanol blends under the waiver conditions set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"Today, the last significant federal hurdle has been cleared to allow consumers to buy fuel containing up to 15 percent ethanol (E15),” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on June 15. “This gets us one step closer to giving the American consumer a real choice at the pump. The public has a right to choose between imported oil and home-grown energy and today's action by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advances that goal. Today's action demonstrates that the Obama administration is making good on its commitment to work to reduce foreign oil imports and increase domestic energy production, including production of renewable biofuels. In addition, the EPA has fulfilled its responsibility to the American public to ensure that E15 is a safe and reliable fuel. Home grown biofuels are providing sustainable rural jobs that cannot be exported. Today's action proves yet again that renewable biofuels are not a dream of the future, but are a reality, and are making a difference today."
At a June 15 announcement the Obama administration stated that all regulatory hurdles to E15 had been addressed by the ethanol industry. Specifically, EPA has notified the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) that its E15 Retail Advisory addresses the agency’s concerns with residual fuel left in gas pumps with just a single hose. The advisory is now incorporated into the RFA’s E15 Retailer Handbook. The E15 Retailer Handbook is referenced by RFA’s EPA-approved misfueling mitigation plan – a strategy required by EPA to ensure E15 is being appropriately and legally offered to consumers. To help with compliance, the RFA is also offering the approved and required E15 pump labels free of charge to retailers.
Download a copy of the RFA’s E15 Retailer Handbook here.
"In the eyes of the federal government, E15 is a legal fuel for sale to cars, pickups, and SUVs made since 2001,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “E15 has undergone the most vigorous testing and regulatory process of any fuel approved by the federal government. With all i’s dotted and t’s crossed as far as EPA is concerned, our undivided focus will turn to addressing state regulatory issues, identifying retailers wishing to offer E15, and paving the way to greater use of domestically produced ethanol.”
Fuel providers and retailers wishing to offer E15 must first register with EPA. In so doing, these companies must state their plans to adhere to the RFA’s EPA-approved misfueling mitigation plan. A copy of that plan and the E15 Retailer Handbook can be found at www.EthanolRFA.org.
In cooperation with Growth Energy, the RFA has also initiated a nationwide fuel survey program as required by EPA to ensure stations offering E15 are adhering to misfueling mitigation requirements, such as proper labeling, ethanol content, and vapor pressure.
“We are committed to ensuring a safe and smooth introduction of E15 for consumers and retailers alike,” said Dinneen. “Change often breeds confusion and as stations begin to offer E15, the RFA will proactively work with those retailers to educate consumers on the appropriate use of E15 and the benefits of greater domestic ethanol use. We believe it is possible that gallons of E15 could be sold under the waiver conditions before the end of the summer."
Hurdles to the widespread adoption of E15 remain, including pending litigation, threats of congressional intervention to prevent the sale of E15, and state regulatory issues. Also limiting the fast adoption of E15, particularly in summer months, is the requirement that E15 meet stricter federal evaporative emissions standards, known as Reid Vapor Pressure or RVP. Currently, most summer gasoline formulations would likely exceed federal limits when blended with 15 percent ethanol. An RVP waiver for 10 percent ethanol blends is in place allowing for year round sale. Such a waiver should be extended to E15 as well given that RVP differences are indistinguishable between and 10 percent and 15 percent ethanol blends.
“It is no secret that some in the petroleum industry and other anti-biofuel voices will mount an all assault to prevent E15 from entering the market,” said Dinneen. “But, America’s ethanol industry is fully committed to working with stakeholders across the supply chain, and with consumers directly to offer American drivers with the choices at the pump -- lower cost choices at that -- for which they overwhelmingly desire.”