GAITHERSBURG, MD - Last week€™s announcement by the EPA to delay a decision on approving higher ethanol blends up to 15 percent until this fall is still being reviewed by sources, OPIS Biofuels Update reports.
The EPA announced its decision, maintaining that it needs more time to review data being collected by the DOE, specifically related to higher ethanol blends and their compatibility with vehicles.
"DOE is on track to complete testing designed to determine the impact of higher ethanol blends on vehicles built after 2007 by the end of September. DOE is also testing some vehicles built before 2007 and is also testing tanks and other fuel handling equipment to see how they might be affected by E15. While results from the tests conducted to-date look good, EPA will not make a final decision until DOE completes its current comprehensive testing of the newer vehicles," the EPA statement noted. "Based on DOE's schedule, EPA believes it will be able to make a final determination on whether to approve the use of higher ethanol blends this fall."
The EPA had planned to make a decision by this summer as to whether it would approve ethanol blends up to 15 percent, as formally requested by Growth Energy. However, it set the timeline based on when it expected the DOE to complete vehicle compatibility tests.
Ethanol supporters were disappointed with the delay, and others expressed surprise at the DOE€™s focus on 2007 and later vehicles €" not the previously expected 2001 and later vehicles.
Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) spokesman David Weintraub said the company is "disappointed that, in 18 months, the DOE has not been able complete this testing and provide EPA with the data necessary to make a decision." ADM had written the EPA earlier this month for E12 approval in all vehicles.
"This delay only underscores the urgency behind our request for the EPA to allow all cars to use E12," Weintraub said. "It's safe for all cars, and the EPA can make the decision under existing rules...Of course, we still strongly support Growth Energy's call for E15 for all cars and believe it's a smart option, but given the delay, an interim E12 decision for all cars just makes good sense."
NACS and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers have urged the EPA to test the use of blends up to E15, and they announced their approval that the agency was focused on the testing phase.
"NACS has always assumed that the EPA would satisfy its obligations and make its decision based upon scientific evidence €" it has the statutory responsibility to do so," explained NACS Vice President of Government Relations John Eichberger. "If the testing is not yet complete and the agency believes it does not have sufficient evidence to make an informed decision, then delaying approval or denial is an appropriate course of action. Clearly, those hoping for approval will be disappointed. Likewise, those hoping for denial would be disappointed if the decision were made prematurely.
"NACS is agnostic whether the E15 petition is approved," Eichberger said, adding that NACS is "greatly concerned" about the possibility of EPA approving a partial waiver-such as allowing only certain model year vehicles to operate on the higher ethanol blends, "which would create the potential for mass misfueling," he said. "We are likewise greatly concerned about and committed to solving the legal hurdles that prevent retailers from lawfully selling these products."