DOE delivers final E15 test results to EPA

By Kris Bevill | January 05, 2011

The U.S. DOE has delivered the final results of its tests using E15 in vehicle models 2001-2006 to the U.S. EPA, but interested parties will have to wait a bit longer before they can access the data. According to the U.S. EPA, the agency received the DOE’s final test results in the final hours of 2010. The EPA said it expects to release the additional data “within the next couple of days” but declined to comment further on the test results, adding that it remains on track to issue a decision on expanding the use of E15 soon.

The EPA’s initial announcement regarding the use of E15 in vehicle models 2007 and newer was issued in October. At that time, the agency was expected to issue a decision on older vehicles by the end of November. However, the decision was reliant upon DOE test results, which were delayed due to mechanical failures of vehicles being tested at the DOE lab. The non-fuel mechanical breakdowns likely occurred as a result of the age of the vehicles and number of miles driven, according to the DOE, and were unrelated to the fuel testing.

Ethanol industry groups said they have not received any of the final test results yet and will likely have to wait until the EPA is ready to announce its decision before they can review the data. In October, the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy both expressed confidence that the E15 waiver would be expanded to include older vehicles. In comments recently filed with the EPA regarding its proposed E15 label, the RFA reiterated its stance that E15 should be allowed for use in all vehicles, citing its own engineering assessment that found no issues with using E15 in older vehicles as well as lack of scientific evidence proving otherwise in EPA data. “The fact is none of the data EPA has evaluated to date has suggested any significant materials compatibility, driveability, or emissions issues associated with the use of E15,” the group stated. “Indeed, the DOE’s completed testing program has affirmed the efficacy of E15 in automotive engines.” Likewise, in comments it filed in response to the EPA’s proposed E15 label, Growth Energy encouraged the agency should approve E15 for all light-duty vehicles.

It so far appears unlikely the EPA will extend the waiver to include any vehicles older than 2001. The agency said in October it was not considering vehicles older than 2001 for E15 use and E15 testing was not being conducted on older vehicles.

While the EPA considers expanding the allowable number of users of E15, opposition to its initial E15 decision continues to grow. A coalition of petroleum interests has filed a petition with the D.C. Court of Appeals asking it to overturn the EPA’s decision, arguing that the agency does not have the authority to grant a partial waiver for E15 use. The group also contends that stakeholders did not have a fair amount of time to review data used by EPA to reach its conclusion regarding E15 use in vehicles 2007 and newer. Members of the group challenging the EPA’s decision in the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, among others. “NPRA is taking this action because our members are committed to consumer protection and providing safe, efficient, affordable and reliable fuel to the American people,” NPRA President Charles Drevna said. “The organizations challenging EPA’s decision believe the agency has acted unlawfully in its rush to allow a 50 percent increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline without adequate testing and without following proper procedures. As a result, we had no choice but to take this issue to court.”