Legislation introduced to stop EPA from moving forward with E15

By Holly Jessen | January 26, 2011

Two legislators introduced the “Leave Ethanol Volumes at Existing Levels Act” on Jan. 25, saying it will “allow for a pause before EPA hastily approves any further ethanol in fuel.” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said there’s a need for more studies and assurances that the increase from E10 to E15 will be safe. “The security of the public’s well-being should be paramount in this case,” Burgess said. “This is serious business.  Car engines, lawn mowers, generators—any engine that uses gasoline, could be potentially at risk for catching fire or having mechanical failure.  Moreover, businesses tasked with selling this new gasoline with increased ethanol could face potential lawsuits from consumers who fail to follow posted signs warning them that E-15 should only be used in newer engines.”

Burgess also questioned why the U.S. DOE conducted the E15 studies rather than EPA. “Does EPA not employ its own scientists and experts,” he asked. “Is EPA’s position that it is incapable of doing its own research?”

On Jan. 21, the same day the EPA expanded its initial waiver from model year 2001 to present, Burgess sent a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. He asked for the full results of the DOE testing and referred to the “speed at which EPA is moving to approve E15 and introduce it into the gasoline market.”

The EPA has said it won’t grant an E15 waiver in 2011 for any motorcycles, motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles or non-road engines. And, although the ethanol industry has been calling for it, the DOE is not currently conducting E15 testing on model year 2000 and older vehicles.

Chris Thorne, director of public affairs for Growth Energy, pointed to a recent wave of misinformation that included errors of both fact and logic. “There’s an old saying that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not everyone is entitled to their own facts,” he said.

He pointed to information from the Federal Elections Commission that reveals that both Senators have received contributions from the oil and gas industry. Inhofe has taken more than $1.2 million from the oil and gas industry since 1989, making it the first industry on a list of his top five industry contributors.  Burgess has taken more than $200,000 from the oil and gas industry since 2002.

The EPA reviewed the data thoroughly and came to the conclusion that E15 is safe for 2001 and newer passenger vehicles, including cars, SUVs, and light pickup trucks, said Matt Hartwig, communications director for the Renewable Fuels Association. The concern should be that the EPA is not going as far as the science allows, not that it went too far. “We can play delay games until we are blue in the face,” he said. “The only thing that gets us is a deepening addiction to imported oil. Import baby, import is not an energy solution.”