WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given the final okay for the sale of E15 at gasoline stations in the United States, but there remains several hurdles before consumers will see it at the pump, the Sioux Argus Leader reports.
On June 15, EPA approved the first misfueling mitigation plans (MMPs) for individual companies, the agency notes on its website. Companies whose plans were approved had notified EPA in writing that they wished to use the March 2, 2012, Model Plan. Before approving their requests, EPA sought more information about how E15 would be dispensed, particularly from blender pumps.
While the agency had given E15 its sanction in January 2011, the EPA had a series of procedures to go through before gasoline retailers could sell the fuel. The agency wanted to ensure the higher blend was labeled and sold properly to avoid misfueling, since E15 is only for use in cars and light trucks with the 2001 model year and forward. Older vehicles and light equipment should not use the fuel.
"I think there are a number of stations, particularly in the Midwest, that will be very interested in doing this, and there will certainly be encouragement from the renewable fuel industry for it to be done as quickly as possible," said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary said last week.
"Anything that paves the way for E15 is a good thing, and [June 15], we got the last hurdle removed, so we should be able to see additional biofuel use," Vilsack said, adding that it will "take some time" before E15 will be at local gasoline stations.
To get the fuel onto the marketplace, other requirements from federal, state and localities will need to be tackled. One example is E15 compatibility for tank and dispensers. Also, several states have restrictions on selling certain ethanol-gasoline blends, so laws would need to be altered in those states.
"Retailers interested in selling this product need to proceed carefully to ensure they are compliant with all applicable laws and regulations," advised NACS Vice President of Government Relations John Eichberger. "For example, not only must they be certain their equipment is appropriately listed as compatible with the fuel, they must abide by the misfueling regulations issued by EPA to prevent consumers from used E15 in non-approved engines. And retailers must be certain to clearly identify the product on price signs to avoid confusing the consumer when comparing prices among various products."
"I wouldn€™t expect to be seeing [E15] in gasoline stations across the country any time real soon," said Pat Westhoff, who directs the Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri. "As of right now, there appears to be some resistance on the part of consumers because of concerns about mileage and concerns about (its impact) on their vehicle."
Many retailers remain skeptical about stocking E15, citing concerns over using the blend in older fueling systems. NACS continues supporting legislation in Congress (H.R. 4345 and S. 2264) to reform the liabilities associated with selling new fuels. In particular, the legislation will allow equipment currently in use to potentially be recertified as compatible with a new fuel like E15 and it will protect retailers who comply with EPA€™s misfueling regulations from certain liabilities if a consumer ignores the labels and misfuels a non-approved engine.
Contact your legislators today and urge them to support this important legislation.