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Corn+Soybean Digest

EPA Denies RFG Waiver Requests

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied Clean Air Act waiver requests from California, New York and Connecticut, allowing the use of ethanol to continue to aid those states in reducing air pollution. The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) applauds EPA’s action to uphold the Clean Air Act requirements, which are designed to reduce smog-forming emissions in the nation’s most severe ozone non-attainment areas.

The states were seeking exemptions from the oxygenate requirement of the federal Reformulated Gasoline (RFG) program. Under Clean Air Act requirements, reformulated gasoline must contain at least 2% oxygen by weight. The oxygenate contained in RFG allows the gasoline to burn cleaner. Ethanol made from corn and other renewable crops has been determined to be the safest and most effective oxygenate.

According to EPA, there was an extensive review of the information submitted by each state in support of its petition and the decision was made after EPA reviewed new information submitted by California and after EPA scientists and engineers conducted additional analysis to address the 9th Circuit Court's decision to vacate the agency's original denial.

NCGA President Leon Corzine said corn growers agree with the EPA decision and commend the agency for its consistency in working toward improved air quality in America’s cities.

“We thank the EPA for again recognizing that the use of ethanol significantly reduces harmful tailpipe emissions from automobiles,” said Corzine. “With this decision, the EPA continues to acknowledge the proven benefits ethanol has on air quality. It is clear that the EPA is committed to addressing concerns about air quality.”

EPA Assistant Administrator of Air Jeff Holmstead stated, "Congress has required the use of oxygenates as part of the clean fuels program and has made it clear that this requirement can only be waived if a state demonstrates that it prevents or interferes with the state's ability to meet national air quality standards. California, New York and Connecticut did not make this demonstration.”

Corzine said many states and communities across the nation have recognized that ethanol is more than a simple RFG additive. States like Minnesota, which just passed legislation to move to a 20% ethanol blend, see ethanol as a way to extend gasoline supplies, enhance the environment quality and bolster the regional economy.

Ethanol-blended fuels reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 7 million tons in 2004 (which is over 280,000 semi-truck loads), equal to removing the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 1.04 million cars, according to Argonne National Laboratory. Corn-based ethanol not only provides benefits to the environment by reducing pollution, it also plays a major role in contributing to the nation’s long-term energy security.

Additionally, ethanol is less expensive than gasoline, translating to lower pump prices for drivers in many parts of the country. In fact, according to a recent study by the Consumer Federation of America, “If, instead of just blending 5.7% ethanol, California refiners chose to blend 10% ethanol as they do in New York, Chicago and Connecticut, California motorists could save as much as 8 cents a gallon.” Currently California is a 1 billion gallon ethanol market noted Corzine. “Californians can breathe a little easier knowing that ethanol – a safe alternative to MTBE – will fulfill the oxygenate requirement and make for cleaner air and cleaner water,” he said.

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