NPRA ’11: US petchems hope for congressional ban on E-15

28 March 2011 23:23  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS)--The US petrochemicals sector hopes for congressional action to block a federal mandate for 15% ethanol fuel blends (E-15), with a top industry official saying on Monday that the nation needs a permanent legislative end to the “corn ethanol train wreck”.

Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), told a press conference that “We’re hoping for a congressional resolution because that would be permanent, rather than a court decision” which might be overturned later.

NPRA, along with other trade groups and business interests, has filed suit in federal court challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to authorise distribution and sale of  E-15.

Legislation pending in the US Congress would reverse the agency’s decision to authorise E-15 blends.

Current US fuel blends include 10% ethanol, known as E-10.

The refiners and petrochemicals group has argued, along with others, that E-15 fuels could damage vehicle engines and other gasoline-powered equipment or systems, such as off-road and construction equipment, marine motors and maintenance gear.

A coalition of interest groups - including agricultural, engine manufacturers, grocery and foods producers - also has argued that the agency failed to conduct or wait for comprehensive testing of E-15 fuel blends in the full range of automotive engines.

“We’ve had about as much fun with corn ethanol as a nation can have,” Drevna said, saying that the 2007 legislative mandate for expanded bio-ethanol fuels production and consumption has not worked.

“They said that cellulosic ethanol would be the saviour,” Drevna added, referring to bio-ethanol industry forecasts for breakthrough development of non-food bio-ethanol feedstocks such as corn stover, switch grass and wood chips.

“But cellulosic ethanol hasn’t happened,” he added.

He said that conventional gasolines “are proven, reliable, efficient and abundant - and we provide jobs”.

“Now, when supplemental forms of energy such as corn ethanol are as abundant, reliable and proven as oil and natural gas, then we can have a discussion about ‘alternative’ energy,” he said.

Referring to corn ethanol, Drevna said: “They have a mandate, a monopoly, subsidies and a tariff.  These things are only viable because of a government subsidy.”

“Our political leaders are going to have to make some gut decisions about our energy policy, and I hope they look at the broader public policy concerns,” he said.

Drevna spoke at the 36th annual International Petrochemical Conference (IPC), which is sponsored by NPRA and concludes on Tuesday.

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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