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E15 Waiver Delayed Again

The EPA has again delayed a decision that would allow the amount of ethanol that can be blended in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent. This decision has now been delayed by seven months, and Growth Energy, which originally filed a waiver in March 2009 requesting approval from the EPA to blend up to 15 percent in gasoline from the current cap of 10 percent, is voicing its concern.

Last December, EPA informed Growth Energy that it would make a decision mid-year after the Department of Energy (DOE) had completed its studies on the impact of increasing the blend level. Well, mid year is here, but now the DOE tests are not expected to be completed until this fall.

The earliest that the ethanol industry is expected to hear whether E15 will be accepted is late September—and that’s just for vehicle models 2007 and newer. It is expected to be late November before the industry learns whether E15 can be used in vehicles that were built between 2001 and 2007. In a press conference today, Tom Buis, Growth Energy CEO, said that more than half of the cars in the U.S. fleet today are 2001 and newer.

Growth Energy has sent a letter to President Obama voicing its disappointment that the federal agencies involved in making a decision on the waiver have delayed action again.

The letter also said that approval of the waiver “would create more than 136,000 new jobs in the U.S., reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 7 billion gallons, reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 10.5 million cars from the road, and revitalize our rural communities.”

Growth Energy wants the tests expedited and is reviewing its legal and legislative options, Buis said in the press conference. It also is preparing a letter to DOE Secretary Steven Chu.

When it filed the waiver in March 2009, Growth Energy also submitted data that it said demonstrated that raising the blend level to 15 percent would meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act. DOE is doing additional testing that may or may not be included in the Clean Air Act, Buis said. He told reporters that DOE was adding tests, but did not tell Growth Energy what these tests involved.

Buis said that he is confident that the industry will eventually get the E15 waiver, but that the delay is difficult. The delay also may turn investors away from ethanol, particularly cellulosic ethanol technology.

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