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Inside the Beltway: Reaching Out in Preparation for E15
by Eric Washburn

Last spring, a petition was filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by Growth Energy, ACE, NCGA, RFA and other biofuel supporters to allow the sale of gasoline blends that contain as much as 15 percent ethanol (E15).

On November 30, 2009 the EPA replied to that petition in a letter from Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy. While the Agency did not state that it is allowing the sale of blends up to E15 at this time, it did give strong hints that such a waiver will be forthcoming for vehicles from model year 2001 and later, once the Department of Energy completed all its durability testing of high blends, which is expected to occur by the summer of 2010.

On balance, this is good news. While ACE certainly would have preferred an outright waiver to sell E15 immediately, it appears that the EPA is following the science and ultimately that should lead to a good result for the ethanol industry, American consumers, and our nation’s long struggle to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

In the meantime, the ethanol industry should be doing all it can to prepare for the approaching day when higher ethanol blends can be marketed in the United States. This will entail educating consumers, promoting the installation of blender pumps around the country, and addressing legal liability issues associated with potential misfueling incidents.

The EPA recognizes that higher ethanol blends and the needs of small engine and boat owners can coexist. In her letter, McCarthy noted that the agency is “taking steps to address fuel pump labeling issues to ensure consumers utilize the proper gasoline for their vehicles and equipment (such as lawn mowers, boats, etc.).” One of the main reasons that ACE has consistently promoted the deployment of blender pumps is that so consumer can have a number of fuel choices, including ethanol-free gasoline for small engines or collector cars with older engines.

Now that we can see that the science is clearly leading us to the use of higher ethanol blends in the near future, our industry should reach out to those who have had legitimate questions about the effects of higher blends on the equipment they manufacture (as opposed to those entities like the Grocery Manufacturers Association that disingenuously use this issue as a means of stopping the growth in the use of biofuels), and work to ensure that as higher blends enter the market, their issues are fully addressed.

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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industry�s hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanol�s carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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