IRFA: EPA inaction limits E15 as fuel option during summer months

By Iowa Renewable Fuels Association | June 02, 2015

On May 31, drivers of 2001 and newer vehicles could purchase lower-cost E15. Yet starting June 1, thousands of motorists will pull up to an E15 pump and be greeted by a new label stating “for flexible fuel vehicles only.”  Just three days after the U.S. EPA dramatic cuts to the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS), their inaction on another regulation, and Big Oil’s gleeful willingness to use the regulation to impede competition, has forced retailers to needlessly restrict E15 sales to flex-fuel vehicles (FFV) only from June 1 through Sept. 15, 2015.

 “June 1 is essentially Petroleum Monopoly Day,” stated Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Iowans want to buy E15 and retailers want to sell it, but the EPA has yet again put the power in the hands of Big Oil to restrict the option of E15. This blatant market manipulation is proof positive that we need a strong RFS to crack the petroleum monopoly.

 “The E15 fuel for sale today is the same E15 that consumers were buying yesterday—only today most can no longer buy it,” Shaw added. “EPA continues to refuse to treat E10 and E15 the same during the summer. As a result, EPA prevents consumers from purchasing a cleaner-burning, lower-cost fuel and thereby actually helps buttress the artificial ‘blend wall’ that Congress has directed them to tear down. It’s almost comical that for three and a half months a year, EPA hands the fuel market over to Big Oil resulting in higher prices, more smog forming emissions, and more carbon emissions. How does that make sense?”

 EPA has refused to equalize the vapor pressure regulations for E10 and E15 during the summer driving season, running from June 1 through September 15. This allows the petroleum industry to provide Iowa wholesale suppliers and retailers with only the E10 blendstock, cutting E15 out of the market. Ironically, adding the extra 5 percent ethanol to summertime E10 actually lowers the vapor pressure and reduces evaporative and tailpipe emissions.

 “To add insult to injury, EPA actually blames the ethanol producers for the lack of fuel choice in its recent RFS proposal,” Shaw continued.

After noting that Big Oil has “had years to plan for the E10 blend wall” but refused to take action, the EPA’s RFS proposal states that “biofuel producers could also have taken appropriate measures, and that nothing precludes biofuels producers from independently marketing” higher ethanol blends.

 “Apparently the EPA forgot that Big Oil still has to agree to provide the proper gasoline blendstock for higher ethanol blends,” concluded Shaw. “EPA’s inaction on equalizing the regulations for E10 and E15 hands Big Oil one more tool to manipulate the market. The RFS was intended to tear down the artificial ‘blend wall.’  Now EPA’s own inaction adds a brick to the fake ‘blend wall’ that they, in turn, use to try to justify the proposed RFS reduction. Then, instead of looking in the mirror, the EPA turns around and blames the ethanol industry for the lack of fuel choices. Only in Washington, D.C. does this count as logic.”

Alternative fuels restricted to FFVs fall under a separate set of EPA regulations. Therefore, retailers can still offer E15 to FFV drivers during the summer. However, FFVs make up less than 10 percent of the vehicles on the road, while 2001 and newer vehicles account for more than 80 percent of fuel purchases.