EPA delays E15 decision to December

By Kris Bevill | November 15, 2010
Posted Nov. 23, 2010

The U.S. EPA will wait until the U.S. DOE has completed testing of E15 on vehicle models 2001-'06 before it issues a final ruling on the use of E15 in those vehicles. In October, the agency announced it will allow the use of E15 in vehicle models 2007 and newer. At that time, it was anticipated that the agency would issue a decision on older vehicles by the end of November. However, the need for extended testing at the DOE has delayed the EPA's schedule.

The DOE is extending testing to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the test data used by EPA to make its waiver decision. Some of the vehicles used in the initial tests experienced mechanical failures unrelated to fuel. These problems likely occurred as a result of the age and high number of miles already driven by the vehicles. Additionally, one of the vehicles failed the emissions test when fueled with E15, which was likely due to a spark plug issue unrelated to E15. Non-fuel mechanical breakdowns have caused some delays in the additional testing, according to a DOE official, but both agencies are committed to conducting thorough testing. DOE and EPA officials have confirmed that the additional testing will be complete by the end of December.

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, said his group is confident that the additional testing will prove E15 is acceptable for use in older vehicles. "The problem was with the testing process, not the fuel," he said. "This also demonstrates just how committed EPA is to the integrity of the testing; they are doing this right."

The American Petroleum Institute welcomed the news that a decision would be delayed, and recommended that the EPA should delay its ruling even longer. "EPA should extend its review six months or more to allow scientific testing to be completed on the effects of E15 on the engines of these older vehicles," said Bob Greco, director of downstream operations at API.

The Renewable Fuels Association suggested again that the EPA should extend its review to include all vehicles, rather than models 2001 and newer. "We are encouraged by EPA's commitment to accurate testing for 2001-'06 cars and pickup trucks, particularly given the failures are unrelated to the fuel being tested," said Bob Dinneen, president of the RFA. "While the delay is disappointing, it is understandable. We encourage EPA to extend such due diligence to testing for all cars and pickups, regardless of age."