US petchem, environmental groups warn anew on ethanol fuel blend

28 September 2010 20:28  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US energy, chemical, food and livestock industries and environmentalists on Tuesday voiced strong opposition to possible federal approval of a higher ethanol blend in US gasolines, saying the decision would be misguided and dangerous.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) and the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) were among 23 business and interest groups who urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to not approve a 12% ethanol fuel blend, known as E-12.

The agency is considering a request from US corn-ethanol producers to approve E-12 for all US gasoline engine uses.

Separately, the EPA also is considering a biofuels industry request for an authorisation for E-15 ethanol blends, but the agency has indicated that it might issue a partial approval for E-15 use by automobiles manufactured since 2000.

US refiners and other business and agricultural groups oppose any higher ethanol fuel blends beyond the current E-10 level on grounds that EPA lacks sufficient scientific research to assure the higher blends would not damage automotive or off-road or equipment engines, such as marine motors, construction equipment and recreational vehicles.

Refiners in particular oppose a partial E-15 approval for newer automobiles, charging that a continuing E-10 authorisation and a restricted-use E-15 approval would create a logistical nightmare for distributors and ultimately would result in mis-fuelling by consumers.

The ethanol industry has countered with studies contending that E-12 and E-15 blends would not damage engines or fuel infrastructures or harm the environment.

Short of approval for E-15, ethanol producers would welcome an E-12 authorisation, arguing that a broader federal mandate for ethanol fuel use is needed to sustain the troubled biofuels industry and drive research and development funding for a transition to non-food cellulosic ethanol feedstocks.

But in their letter on Tuesday to the EPA, the refining, industry and environmental groups argued against even an E-12 authorisation.

“There has been no opportunity to review the data submitted in support of an E-12 authorisation, no public comment period or peer review of data purported to support this request,” the industry letter said.

“EPA approval of E-12 without rigorous and extensive independent testing and without the opportunity for public comment ... would be misguided,” the letter added.

API, NPRA and NRDC also argued that EPA authorisation for E-12 without such testing and public comment would sidestep the new fuels and additives protections that Congress specifically included in the Clean Air Act.

The EPA had earlier indicated that it might have a decision on the E-15 or E-12 petitions by the middle of October.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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