EPA grants partial approval for E15 use

By Kris Bevill | September 23, 2010
Posted Oct. 13, 2010

The U.S. EPA issued what Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy said is a step toward increasing U.S. renewable fuel use when it announced Oct. 13 that it has approved the use of E15 in vehicle models 2007 and newer. The agency denied the use of E15 in older vehicles as well as motorcycles, heavy-duty trucks and off-road vehicles and will issue a decision on model years 2001-'06 following the completion of U.S. DOE testing in November. The partial waiver approval came after nearly two years of extensive fuel testing following a petition for widespread E15 approval filed with the EPA by Growth Energy and a coalition of ethanol producers.

Light-duty trucks and cars manufactured in years 2007 and newer represent approximately 20 percent of the total U.S. fleet and consume approximately one-third of the transportation fuel used in the U.S. There is "no question" the partial waiver has the potential to increase the use of renewable fuels, she said, but she admitted that the decision to make E15 available will be retailers', and there remain questions as to how eager retailers and fuel suppliers will be to add E15 to their fuel mix. "This decision was a step in the direction of allowing more renewable fuels into the market," she said. "It is by no means an assurance that that will happen quickly and that is by no means the EPA's job."

According to McCarthy, the EPA was unable to approve E15 for model years 2001-'06 because it needs additional time to evaluate the DOE's fuel test results. No sufficient testing has been conducted on older model vehicles, she said, and therefore the EPA cannot approve the use of E15 in those vehicles. The EPA is required to entertain all waiver requests, however, and McCarthy stated that the partial approval "doesn't close the door to initial testing and waiver filing" for legacy vehicles.

To coincide with the partial E15 approval, the EPA has proposed labeling requirements for E15 pumps which would clearly state that the fuel contains E15 and is to be used only in vehicles model years 2007 and newer. The EPA would also conduct quarterly surveys of retail stations to ensure that fuel tanks are properly labeled. McCarthy said the proposal also contains language to guide the EPA in management of blender pumps. Comments will be accepted for 60 days following the rule's publication in the Federal Register. For more information on the proposal, visit www.epa.gov/otaq/regs/fuels/additive/e15/index.htm.