EPA Considers Raising Ethanol Levels For Gasoline to E15

Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a formal waiver request from the ethanol industry to allow for the blending of up to 15 percent ethanol in a gallon of gasoline. The RFA strongly believes that both the science and existing statute compel EPA to approve this waiver.

Under the law, however, EPA has 270 days to consider the request. The clock is running and a decision is due on December 1, 2009. In the meantime and regardless of its decision, EPA can immediately take steps to increase ethanol use in America safely and responsibly.

EPA has authority to define E12 (12% ethanol/88% gasoline) blends as “substantially similar” to fuels used in certified motor vehicles. The basis for this conclusion is that the weight percentage of oxygen that EPA allows in oxygenated gasoline actually equates to an oxygen percentage that would be present in 12% ethanol blends. Ethanol as a fuel additive is an oxygenate. Including ethanol raises the oxygen content of gasoline, causing for a cleaner, more complete combustion of gasoline.

Much of the concern being raised has to do with the amount of oxygen in gasoline as a result of increased ethanol use and increased combustion temperatures. However, it is likely that fuels containing oxygen levels equal to those in E12 have been in the marketplace since the early 1990s. A complete explanation of the already provided statutory authority EPA has to approve E12 can be found in RFA’s official comments.

Considering this and the authority given to EPA in the Clean Air Act, EPA should acknowledge that it has already permitted E12 blends in terms of equivalent oxygen content and that, such blends are “substantially similar” to certification fuels under its interpretation.

“We need not wait until EPA decides on the formal E15 waiver request to increase the amount of ethanol we use,” said RFA President Bob Dinneen. “This interim and legally supported step of approving E12 blends would provide an immediate boost to America’s ethanol producers and provide gasoline marketers the flexibility they need to meet the requirements of the Renewable Fuels Standard and capitalize on the cost savings associated with increased ethanol blending. “

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