Sensenbrenner bill would hinder E15 growth

By Erin Voegele | January 08, 2015

On Jan. 6, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., introduced a bill that aims to revoke current approval of E15 and require additional testing of midlevel ethanol blends, which are defined as blends greater than E10 and less than or equal to E20. The Renewable Fuels Association criticized the bill, noting it would hinder the growth and expansion of E15.

The bill, H.R. 21, was introduced and referred to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. To date, the measure has no cosponsors.

A copy of the bill provided by Sensenbrenner’s office indicates the bill, if it becomes law, would require the administrator of the EPA to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to provide a comprehensive assessment of the scientific and technical research on the use of midlevel ethanol blends, comparing those blends to E10 or gasoline. The study would be complete within 18 months. Once complete, the assessment would be presented to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The legislation calls for the study to include evaluations of several factors, including the short-term and long-term environmental, safety, durability and performance effects of mid-level blends on a variety of engine types. It also addresses research related to tailpipe emissions, evaporative emissions, engine and fuel system durability, onboard diagnostics, emissions inventory, materials compatibility, operability and drivability, fuel efficiency, fuel economy, knock resistance, consumer education and satisfaction, cost-effectiveness for the consumer, catalyst durability, and durability of storage tanks, and piling and dispensers for retail. The study is also directed to identify areas of research, development and testing necessary to ensure existing fuel infrastructure is not adversely impacted and reduce the risk of misfueling.

In addition, the bill would essentially negate any waiver granted under section 211(f)(4) of the Clean Air Act that is already in place, this includes the current waiver for E15. The EPA would also be prevented from granting new waivers for midlevel blends until the study is submitted.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA, issued a statement responding to the introduction of the bill, stressing that the study Sensenbrenner is seeking has already been done. “The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy undertook the most exhaustive analysis ever conducted prior to approving the 211(f) fuel waiver,” Dinneen said. “But even more significantly, E15 has been driven more than 100 million miles by consumers without a single reported case of engine failure or performance problems.”

“The growing acceptance of E15 has been further demonstrated by auto companies who continue to provide warranty coverage to E15 in their new vehicles. A recent RFA report showed that automakers approved E15 use in nearly 70 percent of all new vehicles,” Dinneen continued. “The rest of the world has moved beyond the hyperbolic angst about E15 and has accepted the fact that higher level ethanol blends are good for consumers, good for air quality, and good for energy security. Mr. Sensenbrenner should as well.”