US Senate bill capping ethanol blend rate at 10% spurs debate

15 February 2013 20:44  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A US Senate bill introduced this week that would cap the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline at 10% (E10) spurred contentious debate on Friday.

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) praised a bill introduced by Republican Senators Roger Wicker of Mississippi and David Vitter of Louisiana that would reverse the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mandate to make gasoline contain 15% ethanol (E15).

The senators and the AFPM argue that, while E10 has been proven to be safe, E15 can cause damage in many vehicles on the road today.

“EPA’s flawed waivers allowing E15 amount to government bureaucrats issuing short-sighted regulations that negatively impact families and businesses across the country,” said Wicker, a member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. “The concerns surrounding E15 that existed prior to the waivers have increased instead of diminishing.”

The EPA has approved E15 for use in vehicles manufactured in and after 2001, saying that the blend can be safely used in those automobiles.

"The fact that EPA would allow a fuel in the marketplace that it knows will threaten existing engines and refuelling infrastructure is inconceivable and is a glaring example of EPA's willingness to place politics ahead of science," said AFPM President Charles Drevna. 

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) disagreed with the AFPM’s claims and with the bill, with RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen calling the bill’s introduction as being “fuelled by emotion and loyalty to home state oil constituents”.

“Now that ethanol represents 10% of the American fuel supply and growing, oil companies are panicked,” Dinneen said. “They are fighting to preserve their monopoly, their unfair and outrageously expensive tax credits and most of all their record-breaking profits.”

“Ethanol is no longer a gnat nipping at their precious ankles,” he added. “It is a threat to the oil-centric status quo.”

Dinneen said the RFA and the ethanol producers the organisation represents would welcome a chance to meet with Wicker and Vitter to explain the benefits of E15 and dispel myths.

Back in August, a federal appeals court dismissed several industry challenges to the EPA's E15 waiver, which authorises a 50% increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline for newer-model year vehicles.

The AFPM, which argues that the EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act with the waiver, has said it is considering appealing the decision to the US Supreme Court.

The bill is titled Senate Bill 344.

By: Jeremy Pafford
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