US House bill would force EPA to test science of E-15 ruling

14 October 2011 20:21  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Congressman James Sensenbrenner (Republican-Wisconsin) introduced a bill on Friday that would force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get independent scientific review of its authorisation for 15% ethanol fuel blends.

The EPA’s approval for nation-wide use of gasolines blended with 15% ethanol – known as E-15 – has been broadly opposed by the US refining industry and multiple other manufacturing sectors.

The US currently uses a 10% ethanol fuel blend, known as E-10, under a renewable fuels mandate. 

However, controversy has surrounded the agency’s approval of the higher E-15 mixture, with auto makers and engine manufacturers warning that E-15 will cause damage to many internal combustion engines and expose producers to liability lawsuits.

In decisions announced in October last year and in January this year, the EPA approved the use of E-15 in cars and light trucks manufactured in 2001 and later, but the approval did not apply to older passenger vehicles, off-road and construction equipment, marine engines and gasoline-powered maintenance equipment such as chain saws.

Refiners and other trade groups have filed suit in US federal court to block the EPA move, and other legislation pending in Congress would reverse the agency’s decision.

The bill introduced by Sensenbrenner, HR-3199, would require the EPA to commission a thorough study of the effects of E-15 by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) before implementing its E-15 rule.

The NAS is a taxpayer-funded agency that advises the federal government on science and technical issues, and its findings typically influence Congress.

“The EPA’s decision to allow E-15 into the marketplace will impact every American who owns a car, lawnmower or boat,” Sensenbrenner said, adding that “Automakers insist that using E-15 will void warranties, lower fuel efficiency and cause premature engine failure”.

“In off-road engines, the effects can even be dangerous for users,” he said.

Sensenbrenner charged that the EPA failed to consider the full spectrum of scientific information about the consequences of E-15 use in automobiles and other engines.

“There are serious concerns that the EPA used only one Department of Energy test and rushed E-15’s introduction into the marketplace,” he said.

He said that the Energy Department test “was limited in scope and ignored a plethora of evidence – albeit inconvenient evidence for the EPA – that shows E-15 gasoline has a negative effect on engines”.

Sensenbrenner said that his bill would ensure that “a decision of this magnitude will be vetted by independent scientific research, rather than political expediency”.

By: Joe Kamalick
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