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Growth Energy and Ethanol Producers Request Waiver Allowing E15 from EPA

Growth Energy, a new advocacy group promoting ethanol and biofuels, has submitted, on behalf of 52 US ethanol manufacturers, a request for a “green jobs” waiver allowing an increase in the ethanol blend limit from 10% (E10) up to 15% (E15) to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The waiver does not seek to mandate use of E15, but to remove the barrier to its optional use.

Announcing the submission at an event at the National Press Club in Washington DC, General Wesley Clark, USA (Ret.), co-chairman of Growth Energy, said that increasing the blend up to E15 would create 136,101 new jobs and inject $24.4 billion into the US economy annually. Growth Energy released a report earlier in the week on the economic impact of higher blends of ethanol.

General Clark also welcomed the opportunity to work with the USDA and EPA on efforts to provide short-term relief through a substantially similar waiver for E12 or E13.

To approve the higher ethanol blend request, the EPA needs to determine that ethanol blends up to 15% will not affect the emission control systems in vehicles.

In his speech, General Clark said that Growth Energy made the request to raise the cap based on multiple sources of scientific data showing that E15 has no adverse effects on a car’s performance, maintenance, or emissions controls.

A preliminary report released by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in October 2008 on the use of intermediate E15 and E20 ethanol blends in 13 vehicles and 28 small non-road engines found that most of the regulated vehicle emissions from E15 and E20 use were within the normal test variation. No statistically significant change was detected. (Earlier post.)

A number of other studies on the effects of such lower mid-range blends are underway, focused on areas such as further investigation of tailpipe emissions, evaporative emissions, catalyst durability under higher temperatures, driveability, materials compatibility, and specialty engines.

In a letter to Gen. Clark prior to Growth Energy’s announcement, Beth Lowery, GM Vice President, Environment, Energy and Safety Policy, noted that while “GM has been, and continues to be, one of the strongest advocates for ethanol use”, the company would like to see “a more focused emphasis on addition testing” to understand the impacts of mid-level blends on the conventional fleet.

GM has produced more than 5 million flex-fuel vehicles capable of handling ethanol blends of up to 85% (E85), but still has remaining questions over the impact of mid-range blends on durability and catalyst lifetime in non-E85 gasoline vehicles, for example.

Lowery also noted that:

There remains a critical need to continue to support favorable policies for flex fuel growth, expand consumer education, develop a comprehensive blender pump rollout plan that includes labeling and enforcement, review certification fuel requirements and work together on cadence testing, and ensure OEM protection from field actions associated with a change to the base fuel.

In the cover letter accompanying the waiver application, Growth Energy noted that Ford Motor Company has endorsed efforts to increase the base blend level up to E15.

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) weighed in as well, saying that it has serious concerns with a “premature rush” to 15% ethanol (E15) or other mid-level fuel blends.

The fact is that the use of E15 and higher levels of ethanol is a complex issue, and it can’t be rushed by efforts that overlook the impacts on consumer safety and economic interests. OPEI fully supports congressional efforts to increase the use of cellulosic fuels. We can design products to run on higher levels of ethanol.

—Kris Kiser, Executive Vice President at Outdoor Power Equipment Institute

However, Kiser said, existing small-engine equipment will likely experience performance irregularities and possible failure. In a new report cited by OPEI, independent researcher Dr. Ron Sahu critiqued the DOE report (above) that tested a small sample size of legacy vehicles and small non-road engines. DOE’s engine test results indicated that, for the off-road, non-vehicle engines:

  • Engine exhaust temperatures rose to an extent that may cause premature engine and equipment failure,

  • Safety hazards increased due to unintentional clutch engagement caused by high idle speeds,

  • Products were damaged to the point they could no longer operate, and numerous adverse operational issues arose – such as erratic engine and equipment operation, stalling of engines, and dramatic power reduction.

“Moving to higher ethanol blends will help build on the foundation established by today’s ethanol to ensure a viable market for tomorrow’s advanced ethanol that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 86 percent compared to gasoline. But until we increase the cap, there will be no market for these breakthrough fuels.”
—Vinod Khosla, biofuels investor
and founder of Khosla Ventures

(DOE also noted that the effect of E15 and E20 on the durability of smaller, less expensive residential engines (e.g., line trimmers) was not clear given that a number of these engines failed regardless of fuel type.)

In his remarks, Gen. Clark noted that the waiver request would not impact small engines since gas stations would still be able to sell lower blends of ethanol, including gasoline with zero ethanol (E0).

The study released by Growth Energy earlier this week found that another 6 billion gallons of ethanol production capacity would be needed to meet the demand for ethanol at a 15% blend rate. In addition to the annual employment and economic contribution of the additional production, the construction of these new facilities would lead to a one-time economic boost of $36.8 billion and create more than 260,000 new construction-related jobs.




If the standard is going to be increased to allow for more CELLULOSIC ETHANOL from algae, or non-foodstock sources, fine...but I am opposed to increasing the standard for corn-based ethanol at this point.


Ha eji you are making progress...

Blending ethanol with gazoline is a stupid idea to start with. You need a very dehydrated ethanol that requires a lot of energy to remove all the water. On top of this E15 will generates corosion in the engines that haven't been designed for burning this mixture. Last but not least the production of ethanol represent barely 4% of the gazoline US consumption so why bother ?

richard schumacher

When the comment period for this opens please post a link to the comments site.


There are many cars out there that have a limit of 10% from the manufacturer. If you offer a 15% option at the pump, that's okay as long as you also offer a 10% or less mixture also. Ethanol will cause corrosion in the fuel system of older cars and can disable the fuel system over time.


Getting to E10 across the country using cellulose ethanol would be fine with me. Finding ways to use wet ethanol injection might be useful too. It is too bad that we went the corn route to start, but using ethanol reduces the use of oil. It is where you get the ethanol that matters. Getting more miles per gallon with dual fuel FFV/CNG hybrids would help as well.


The risk to vehicles of E15 is still being researched by the feds....

(The following is an excerpt from a recent article in US News and World Report

To allow higher blends, EPA officials say they must first have reliable, comprehensive data on the lifetime impact of higher ethanol blends on cars and their internal workings. Some industry representatives say such data are already available. But according to EPA officials, that research is not yet finished.

In fact, a central element of that research is a multiyear Energy Department study looking at the lifetime impact of E-15 and E-20 on cars and small engines. Though very preliminary results were reported last October, the lifetime analyses have yet to be completed. "Work is still ongoing," says Brian West of the Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, one of the project's leaders. "Aging vehicles to full life takes a long time, and . . . we are in the midst of that now. We are working with EPA to be sure the data we provide is of the most value to them."

There might be, however, a few other options for boosting ethanol use. According to the EPA, some states aren't using 10 percent ethanol blends for gasoline yet. They're still at 6 percent or 7 percent. Ethanol advocates, meanwhile, say the EPA could avoid all the issues of writing new regulations by making what's known as a "substantially similar" ruling—saying, essentially, that E-13 is similar to E-10 in terms of its impact. But that, too, would require the EPA deciding that the existing data are adequate.

Automakers continue to urge caution: "Everybody is saying hurry up, hurry up; we need to make a decision," says Coleman. "It's all a question of priorities. In the end, there's trillions of dollars of gasoline-powered equipment in this country."


More ethanol in the gas means lower fuel heating value but the price for a gallon at the pump will of course go up.


It used to be amusing that so many people still believe all the oil company right wing sponsored propaganda about ethanol but it is starting to get annoying. A little research will show you that ethanol is not the least bit corrosive to any fuel system made after 1983. I ran ethanol blends in a 1978 mustang for many years with no problems.

I can tell you without a doubt that nearly every car with port fuel injection can run at least 50% ehtanol with no more than a 2% reduction in fuel economy with no modifications and will run for many more miles than it would have on gasoline. If you raise the fuel pressure to about 60 psi on older cars you don't even need to change the fuel injectors to run pure ethanol. And if you also tune the computer with a laptop to adjust the timing to between 25 and 30 degrees BTDC and lean the cruising and idling mixture out you will get the same or better mileage. Ethanol runs so cool that you cannot lean the mixture enough to get the exhaust temp up to the same temp that it was on gasoline.

I can also tell you there are quite a few people running E-85 in cars like 1993 Cadillacs with no modification and have been doing so for some time now. The only problem you will experience is the check engine light will come on because there is so little of the crap that gasoline pumps out your exhaust that the catalytic converter will not maintain a high enough temperature and trips the light.


A few points here (there are many more):

Fuel heating values have no real basis concerning internal combustion engines. The reason is engines are closed controlled combustion environments. An IC engine involved in burning its fuel has its chambers completely sealed to the outside. Heating values are only important in situations such as open to the air burner like in a camp cook stove or unpressurized firebox of a steam boiler.

Another big misconception is mileage. The reason some engines experience lower mpg on alcohol is because they are optimized to burn gasoline - and dealing with all its limiting deficiencies. Gasoline as a fuel has inefficient combustion, high flame temperature, and slow flame front speed. In an engine time frame - gasoline is slow to convert itself to useful work, and if pushed it will explode uncontrollably generating detonation or "knock". This will physically destroy an engine in a very short period of time. Engines have to run in a low compression cycles to use gasoline. This is also attractive to auto companies because low compression engines are cheap to build even though they are relatively inefficient.

Along with this critics point to air fuel ratio (AFR) difference, namely alcohol has a richer mix to gasoline (9 to 1 vs 14 to 1) and therefore higher fuel consumption. However they fail to point out that under high loads and high power demand a gasoline engine will drop its AFR to 8 to 1 or lower to avoid engine destroying knock. This is the case if you put your foot into it when doing hard accelerations or climbing a hill at high speed. Alcohol is far more tolerant for lean burn conditions.

One big misconception is that alcohol is "highly corrosive". Corrosives are acids or bases - which do readily eat metals and other materials. Alcohol is a solvent. The term often associated with alcohol and misunderstood is "galvanic corrosion" which is essentially "rust". This occurs because water will readily mix with alcohol. Certian metals "rust" quicker over time such as virgin untreated aluminum, and "terne plating" in cheaper gas tanks (terne plating contains zinc). Steel however holds up very well.Ethanol is also often confused with methanol which is much more aggressive with this type of corrosion. An alcohol only fueled engine will also tolerate quite a bit more water in its fuel mix without issues (think water injection).

Additionally if you do research into gasoline you will discover that the fuel contains multiple anti corrosion agents as well as detergents. Without these your automobile engine's life would be shortened considerably. Despite this gasoline usage still leaves accumulating deposits behind such as varnishes, semisolid "gunk", and carbon deposits. This partly comes from a settling out of the heavier compounds of the over 220 that make up gasoline. The last decade more of these are appearing in the mix because "sour" crude oil and natural gas condensates are now being used to make it, since "sweet" crude wells are being used up. Critics will say the use of alcohol will cause catalytic converters to not properly function. This is a relatively misleading argument for two reasons. Ethanol and other alcohols are just a single compound or "monofuels" they contain none of the heavy complex hydrocarbons and additives present in gasoline, and alcohols burn much more efficiently as well. Catalytic converters were created for the sole purpose to deal with the shortcomings of burning a dirty fuel like gasoline to begin with.

richard schumacher

Tellingly there are no assurances about what ethanol can do to polymer components in fuel systems, such as seals, gaskets and tubing. Dissolving any of those would be bad. Not to mention the fact that corn-based fuel ethanol is a net negative for greenhouse gasses. It's good only as an income enhancer for big agribusiness.


I'd Like to say I dont want ethanol fuels in my car for one my car stalls on the now 10% we have in Florida, I went to Canada and they have a 5% blend in 2008 when I was there, and at that my car stalled. its worse here of me in Fla where the humidity is high. I think thats why im haveing so much troubles.

I can't imagine with a 15% blend what will do to my car and others that are not designed for ethanol fuels.

I'd like a choice to the fuels we can get for our cars. etc.. theres one state is doing just that is Oregon.

Thank you.

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