US postpones further E-15 fuel decision to early 2011

19 November 2010 21:03  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Friday that it has postponed its anticipated decision authorising sale of E-15 ethanol fuel blends for older automobiles, citing vehicle testing delays.

The agency said that its plan to issue by 30 November an authorisation for 15% ethanol fuel blends for autos and light trucks manufactured in 2001-2006 would be delayed to early 2011 because testing E-15 fuel compatibility in those vehicles cannot be completed until the end of December.

The testing was being conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE).

“DOE has informed EPA that lab testing of E-15 in model year 2001-2006 vehicles will now be completed by the end of December,” the agency said. “EPA will make its decision shortly after receiving that data.”

The agency announced on 13 October that it was authorising sale of E-15 ethanol blends for autos and light trucks manufactured in 2007 and later. 

At that time, the EPA said it expected to broaden the authorisation to the 2001-2006 model years by the end of November, once the Energy Department had completed testing of E-15 compatibility with vehicles produced in that period.

Previously, only 10% ethanol fuel blends (E-10) have been available at US retail gasoline fuelling stations. 

The nation’s corn-based bio-ethanol producers have long sought the expanded E-15 authorisation in order to boost consumption of their product. 

Despite a federal subsidy and a tariff on imports of foreign ethanol supplies, the US bio-ethanol sector has been troubled by low prices, bankruptcies and consolidations. 

The agency’s decision to make E-15 available has been broadly criticised by US refining, agriculture, livestock and food industries as being scientifically unwarranted and potentially damaging for auto engines and other gasoline-powered vehicles and equipment.

Earlier this month, a coalition of 10 trade groups filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the EPA’s E-15 authorisation.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) said it welcomed the agency’s postponement. The institute, which was one of the ten trade groups that filed suit, said that the EPA should further delay the expanded E-15 authorisation by at least six months.

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