President Trump has directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin a rulemaking process to expand the sale of ethanol to include E15 (15 vol% ethanol blend) year-round. Proponents of the move hope to have the rulemaking in place for the summer 2019 driving season.
In 1978, a Clean Air Act waiver allowed the use of 10 volume percent ethanol in gasoline (E10). Today, almost all gasoline are E10 blends. In June 2011, EPA approved a partial waiver for blends of 15 vol% ethanol in gasoline for use in model year 2001 and newer passenger cars, light-trucks and medium-duty vehicles.
For fuel quality purposes, E15 must meet the ASTM International 4806-10 standard for ethanol. In addition, its Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) is limited to 9.0 pounds per square inch during the summertime gasoline volatility season (May 1 – September 15) so that MY2001-2006 motor vehicles can meet evaporative emissions standards with E15. Other seasonal and geographic requirements that would limit the RVP of gasoline to lower than 9.0 psi still apply (e.g. areas of the country that have a 7.8 psi summertime RVP standard).
As a result, retailers throughout most of the country are prohibited from offering E15 to drivers during the summer months. The directive to the EPA is to change that.
The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and other renewable fuels groups were extremely supportive of the anticipated move.
BIO applauds the Trump Administration’s decision to remove the regulatory barriers preventing the year-round sale of transportation fuel containing 15 percent biofuels (E15). We look forward to working with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that the proposed rule is issued and finalized in time to allow the sale of E15 for the 2019 summer driving season. This pro-consumer move will provide greater choice at the pump by allowing more market space for cellulosic biofuels.
As BIO noted in our comments on EPA’s proposed Renewable Fuel Standard volumes for 2019, approval of year-round use of E15 can greatly benefit US consumers. Gasoline prices typically rise at the start of the summer, as refineries switch to production of summer-grade gasoline. Providing a permanent Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver for E15 will lower producer costs and provide relief to US drivers.
Researchers from the University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics calculated that increasing the use of ethanol to 10 percent in gasoline saved US consumers $7 billion between 2008 and 2016. Using a similar model—accounting for both the price difference between ethanol and gasoline blendstock and the price difference between ethanol and other octane additives—BIO calculates that the switch from E10 to E15 could save US drivers approximately $9.5 billion per year.
Allowing E15 to be sold year-round will help unleash the potential of cellulosic biofuels by creating more demand and marked headroom for the next generation of biofuels. Increasing the volume of biofuels in the transportation fuel market gives cellulosic biofuel producers an opportunity to compete for consumers by allowing retailers to provide another choice at the pump.—Brent Erickson, BIO’s Executive Vice President, Industrial and Environmental Section
The Clean Fuels Development Coalition (CFDC) applauded the directive, but cautioned that if the EPA attempted to limit the new rule to only blends of 15% it would be a major misstep and cause for serious concern by many in the ethanol industry. CFDC is a member of the High Octane Low Carbon Alliance along with major ethanol and agriculture organizations and have argued for higher octane levels to help meet the pending fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas rule.
15% volume is a great start but certainly should not be a cap or any kind of limit at a time when automakers are acknowledging higher volumes can provide significant increases in octane that they can design to.—CFDC Executive Director Doug Durante