US refiners, others back House bill to require E-15 testing

06 February 2012 22:01  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US refiners and petrochemical producers on Monday joined other manufacturers and environmentalists in urging Congress to pass legislation to force further scientific testing of ethanol’s effects in autos, trucks and off-road vehicles and equipment.

Representative James Sensenbrenner (Republican-Wisconsin) said that 31 trade groups and environmental organisations co-authored a letter to the House Science Committee, urging the panel to approve Sensenbrenner’s bill, HR-3199, to require further vehicle testing of so-called mid-level ethanol fuels.

The Science Committee is to make final changes to HR-3199 on Tuesday before a vote to send the measure to the full House, or to kill it.

The letter urging committee approval of the bill was signed by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the Association of Global Automakers, Friends of the Earth (FOE), the Outdoor Power Institute and others.

Sensenbrenner said that the decision last year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to authorise distribution and sale of gasolines blended with 15% ethanol (E-15 fuel) “raised a red flag, and stakeholders are speaking out before it’s too late”.

In decisions announced in October 2010 and in January 2011, the EPA approved use of E-15 in cars and light trucks manufactured in 2001 and later, but the approval did not apply to older passenger autos, off-road vehicles and construction equipment, marine engines and gasoline-powered maintenance equipment such as chain saws.

The bill introduced by Sensenbrenner 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”.

He has letters from 14 US and foreign auto manufacturers arguing that E-15 fuels likely would damage the engines that power their cars.

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

He charged that 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”.

Refiners and other trade groups have filed suit in US federal court to block the EPA move.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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