Ernst urges Wheeler to take action on barriers to E15 growth

By Erin Voegele | July 28, 2020

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on July 28 urging him to initiate a rulemaking to certify biofuel infrastructure for E15 and remove unnecessary labeling requirements for the fuel blend.

“Two years ago, I worked successfully with you and President Trump to get E15 sold year-round,” Ernst wrote. “One year later, we sat in the Oval Office and created an agreement to further strengthen the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by investing in biofuel infrastructure including streamlining labeling and removing other barriers to the sale of E15. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great loss of demand for biofuels. You must act now to initiate a rulemaking process and follow through on this agreement to provide certainty to our Iowa farmers.”

The letter references a statement Wheeler made earlier this year during a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works where he called the infrastructure issue complicated. “I fail to understand where the complications lie,” Ernst wrote. “According to the National Renewable Energy Lab all steel tanks are approved for up to 100 percent ethanol, as are all double-walled fiberglass tanks since 1990 – over 30 years ago. Given the lifespan of underground tanks, almost every underground fuel tank should be able to handle E15 and higher blends of ethanol.”

The letter goes on to explain that Wayne and Gilbarco account for more than 90 percent of the U.S. market share for gasoline dispensers. “All Wayne dispensers in service today carry a warranty and are compatible with ethanol blends up to 15 percent,” Ernst wrote. “Any Gilbarco dispenser installed 2008 or later carries a warranty for up to 15 percent ethanol. The approximate life of a dispenser is 10-15 years, so similarly to the tanks there are very few pumps out there that are not warrantied for E15.”

Regarding E15 labeling requirements, Ernst noted that the EPA has approved E15 for use in all cars model year 2001 and newer, meaning all cars manufactured in the past two decades are approved for use with the fuel. “This represents over 95 percent of the vehicle miles traveled and more than 9 out of 10 cars on the road today,” Ernst wrote. “Consumers have now driven more than 15 billion miles on E15, retailers have had millions of transactions, and it has been sold for nearly a decade (since 2011), all without a single reported issue. It makes little sense why the black and orange warning label cannot be addressed immediately.”

Ernst asks Wheeler to address three specific questions. First, she asks him to commit to begin rulemaking by Oct. 4 to move forward with expediting the sale of E15 through existing infrastructure. Second, she asks him to clarify his statement that this is a complicated issue and explain what he views as the remaining hurdles. Third, she asks him to move forward with rulemaking before Oct. 4 to remove the unnecessary E15 labeling requirements.

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from Ernst’s website.