US refiners urge EPA to deny bid for higher ethanol blends

20 July 2009 23:34  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US refiners on Monday urged federal officials to deny a bio-ethanol industry request for an increase in ethanol blends in the nation’s gasolines, arguing that a biofuels boost poses safety and environmental risks.

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) said in comments filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the agency is obliged by law to conduct extensive testing before higher ethanol blends can be mandated.

The association was commenting on the request filed in March this year by Growth Energy and other bio-ethanol interests asking EPA to raise the current ethanol blend in gasolines from 10%, known as E-10, to 15% or E-15.

In their petition for the higher blend mandate, ethanol producers argued that the current E-10 blend does not create enough demand to absorb existing domestic corn-ethanol production.

US corn-based ethanol producers have been troubled by low prices and bankruptcies, and sector leaders have said that the requested blend cap increase is critical to survival of the domestic biofuels industry.

NPRA argued in its comments that there is insufficient scientific study on the possible impact of E-15 fuels - also known  as mid-level ethanol blends - on automotive engines, safety and the environment.

The association contends that mid-level ethanol blends could damage automotive catalytic converters and degrade auto engine performance, raising safety concerns.

The refiners group also argues that preliminary tests by the US Department of Energy (DOE) indicate that emissions of some pollutants increase when conventional vehicles use mid-level ethanol blends.

NPRA charged that EPA lacks authority under the Clean Air Act to grant the ethanol blend increase without conducting wide-ranging scientific analyses.

Granting the blend increase, the refiners argue, also would cause significant disruption in the nation’s fuels distribution infrastructure, consumer confusion and potential misfueling.

It also could create potential liability for engine and fuel manufacturers for damage caused to gasoline engines incompatible with E-15 blends, NPRA said.

The ethanol blend increase petition also is opposed by a coalition of chemical producers, engine makers, environmental groups and others.

The EPA has said that it will announce a decision on the Growth Energy petition on or before 1 December this year.

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For more on ethanol visit ICIS Chemical Intelligence

By: Joe Kamalick
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