WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waived a limitation on selling fuel that is more than 10 percent ethanol for model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks.
The waiver, announced Oct. 13, applies to fuel that contains up to 15 percent ethanol — known as E15 — and only to model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks.
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson made the decision after a review of the Department of Energy’s testing and other available data on E15’s impact on engine durability and emissions.
A decision on the use of E15 in model year 2001 to 2006 vehicles will be made after EPA receives the results of additional Department of Energy testing, which is expected to be completed in November.
However, no waiver is being granted this year for E15 use in model year 2000 and older cars and light trucks — or in any motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles, or non-road engines — because currently there is not testing data to support such a waiver.
Ethanol is blended with gasoline for use in most areas across the country. The current limit of corn ethanol blended with gasoline is 10 percent (E10), as set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is an arbitrary cap. Since 1979, up to 10 percent ethanol or E10 has been used for all conventional cars and light trucks, and non-road vehicles.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the announcement will help get existing ethanol capacity into the market, and shows the administration’s commitment to “the use of home grown energy in our cars and trucks,” Vilsack said.
The secretary said, however, that more work is needed, specifically an evaluation of 2001-2006 models.
The National Corn Growers Association said the EPA’s decision was a tentative first step that needs to be followed immediately with more action.
“We’re disappointed in the very limited scope of this approval, but pleased the EPA has finally taken action to partially approve the waiver request to allow higher blends of ethanol in some motor vehicles,” said NCGA President Bart Schott, a grower in Kulm, N.D.
He said, by proceeding along this path, EPA’s decision casts an unnecessary shadow on all ethanol blend levels.
The corn grower said blends up to E-15 and beyond have been tested and found suitable for a wide range of newer and older vehicles.
“We strongly urge the EPA and the Department of Energy to expedite their remaining testing and cut through bureaucracy to quickly approve the E-15 blend for all vehicles,” Schott said. “Consumers deserve clarity.”
The Ohio Corn Growers Association said the EPA missed an opportunity to spur growth for alternative fuels by failing to recognize E12.
E12 can become available on the market sooner than E15 because the EPA already has the authority to approve an E12 blend, according to association Executive Director Dwayne Siekman.
“E12 is the smart, interim step toward increased corn ethanol blends in our country’s fuel supply until a full waiver for E15 is approved,” said Siekman.
The Renewable Fuels Association agreed.
“I find it hard to believe that there is not a level between E10 and E15 at which EPA could approve for use in all vehicles,” said association President and CEO Bob Dinneen.
“An interim step to anything above E10 for all vehicles would have a more immediate impact on the market than today’s announcement.”
To avoid confusion at the pump and help consumers identify the correct fuel for their vehicles, EPA is proposing E15 pump labeling requirements, including a requirement that the fuel industry specify the ethanol content of gasoline sold to retailers.