June 1 marks beginning of RVP control season limiting E15 sales

By Erin Voegele | June 01, 2017

June 1 marks the beginning of the U.S. EPA’s summer ozone control season, which prevents E15 from being sold in more than two-thirds of U.S. gasoline markets through Sept. 15.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the de facto prohibition on summertime E15 sales in conventional gasoline markets is the result of an arbitrary, decades-one EPA regulation. In 2011, the U.S. EPA approved the use of E15 in 2001 and newer vehicles. However, the agency has not yet E15 to qualify from the 1-pound per square inch (psi) Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver that is available to E10 blends. As a result, retailers in conventional gasoline markets would be required to secure “sub-RVP” gasoline blendstock in order to continue E15 sales from June 1 through Sept. 15. According to the RFA, this gasoline blendstock is generally unavailable in conventional gasoline areas and would be uneconomical to ship.

“Unfortunately, today begins yet another summer of limited options and higher prices at the pump for American drivers. EPA’s nonsensical and disparate RVP regulation offers no consumer or environmental benefit whatsoever,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA. “In the end, EPA’s actions are punishing consumers who are being denied access to the cleanest, lowest cost and highest source of octane fuel on the planet. We again call on EPA or Congress to resolve this arcane barrier. ”

Growth Energy is also speaking out, with CEO Emiliy Skor calling the RVP issue a “classic example of a hopelessly out of date regulation negatively impacting the free market.”

“E15 is a federally approved fuel for all cars 2001 and newer that boosts octane, saves consumers up to 10 cents per gallon at the pump, and improves the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and displacing toxic additives in gasoline,” Skor said. “Consumers have recently surpassed over 1 billion miles driven on the fuel, and it is now available at over 800 retail sites across 29 states. Drivers are demanding E15, and more retailers are offering it every day.”

“However, due to an outdated regulation that hasn’t been updated since 1990, gas stations are forced to restrict their sales to flex fuel vehicles only, or remove it from sale altogether between June 1 and September 15. That means that when gas prices are at their peak, consumers are denied the choice of an affordable, cleaner option at the pump. A key waiver that was extended to fuels containing zero to 10 percent ethanol in 1990—In large part because these fuels lowered tailpipe emissions and carbon monoxide—was not extended to E15 because higher blends were not yet conceived when the law was written.

The American Coalition for Ethanol is also weighing in on the issue. “Many customers who bought E15 yesterday are seeing a “FLEX FUEL ONLY” label on that pump today, and that can be confusing for people who just started using E15 at one of the stations that opened in the past year,” said Ron Lamberty, senior vice president of ACE. “On top of the extra hassle of re-labeling fuel dispensers twice a year and telling customers why they can’t buy the less-expensive, higher-octane fuel they bought last week, retailers tell us the confusion carries over, and keeps some drivers from switching back to E15 when it’s ‘legal’ again in mid-September.”

The RFA, Growth Energy and ACE are all calling on Congress to enact legislation that would extend the RVP waiver to E15. That legislation, titled the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, or S. 517 and H.R. 1311, adds language to existing regulation extending the waiver to fuels with 10 percent or more ethanol.