EPA Expects to Make a Final Decision on Increasing Ethanol Blend Limit in Mid-2010 at the Earliest; Timing Depends on Further Testing and Results
In March 2009, Growth Energy, a new advocacy group promoting ethanol and biofuels, submitted 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 did not seek to mandate use of E15, but to remove the barrier to its optional use. (Earlier post.) Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was required to respond to the waiver request by 1 December 2009.
Today (1 December), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) responded to the waiver request, announcing that—depending upon the pace of testing and associated results—it could make a final determination in mid-2010 regarding whether to increase the allowable ethanol content in fuel.
Of course, if the data highlight potential problems, then the decision may need to be delayed until all testing is received and reviewed.—Letter from Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator EPA
In a letter sent to Growth Energy, the agency said that while not all tests have been completed, the results of two tests indicate that engines in newer cars likely can handle an ethanol blend higher than the current 10% limit. The agency will decide whether to raise the blending limit when more testing data is available. EPA also announced that it has begun the process to craft the labeling requirements that will be necessary if the blending limit is raised.
EPA said that it has been evaluating the group’s request and has received a broad range of public comments as part of the administrative rulemaking process. EPA and the Department of Energy also undertook a number of studies to determine whether cars could handle higher ethanol blends. Testing has been proceeding as quickly as possible given the available testing facilities, according to the agency.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers praised the postponement of the decision on the waiver, saying that automakers want government testing to prove that increasing the allowable ethanol blend limit will not harm vehicle emissions, performance, and durability.