Ethanol producers step up to pay for required E15 fuel survey

By Kris Bevill | April 23, 2012

A group of 99 ethanol producers has taken on the task of funding the nationwide fuel survey required by the U.S. EPA for E15 implementation. The fuel survey represents the final federal hurdle to allowing E15 to be sold for use in 2001 and newer vehicles, and the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy and the American Coalition for Ethanol praised ethanol producers for funding the survey despite the fact that the producers own only a few of the 160,000 retail stations that will be subjected to it.

“While rhetorical battles in Washington are waged to find a solution to lowering prices, America’s ethanol producers are stepping up to bring a cleaner, cheaper and more American-made fuel to the market,” the groups said in a statement. “With this survey in place, E15 is now ready in the eyes of EPA for commercial sale.”

The fuel survey is an annual requirement and will be conducted by the Reformulated Gasoline Survey Association. The association will collect and test more than 7,500 gasoline samples to check for ethanol content and other variables. If E15 is detected, the RFGSA will verify that the retailer has properly displayed E15 labels as required by the EPA.  The first fuel samples will be collected on May 1.

The ethanol producers who have agreed to fund the survey represent 60 percent of the total U.S. ethanol capacity, according to the RFA. They were not required to fund the survey, but did so in order to ensure that E15 can be legally sold, according to Matt Hartwig, communications director at the RFA. “It fell upon the industry to pay for it even though the industry does not own the fuel stations that will be the participants in the program,” he said. The RFA declined to release details related to the full cost of the survey.

With funding for the fuel survey in place, retailers in some states are expected to begin offering E15 as early as May 1.       Ethanol groups will now focus their attention on state-specific regulations and other technical issues, such as Reid vapor pressure requirements. The industry must also continue to confront anti-ethanol groups, many of whom claim that E15 has not been rigorously tested and should not be allowed into the market. “We will work diligently with the petroleum industry, gas retailers, automakers and consumers to ensure E15 is used properly,” the ethanol groups said in a statement. “But we will not stand idly by and allow some of these interests to make wild and unsubstantiated claims about ethanol and E15 in order to malign ethanol and scare consumers. The fact remains that E15 is the most tested fuel ever approved by the EPA and is perfectly safe and effective for those engines approved in the waiver.”