EPA’s decision to raise the amount of ethanol allowed in a gallon of gasoline from 10 percent to up to 15 percent for 2007 and newer model cars and light trucks was puzzling.
Don’t expect retailers to rush out and install new pump options, especially since the ruling excludes about 40 percent of the American vehicle fleet from using E-15.
Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, did not agree with the ruling, but chose to stay upbeat. He noted in a blog that it’s now up to the renewable fuels industry “to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.” http://www.ethanolrfa.org/exchange/entry/making-a-silk-purse/
As far as sow’s ears go, this one’s pretty ugly.
For one, EPA has yet to provide any scientifically-based justification for its decision to segment the market in this way, said Matt Hartwig, director of communications for RFA. “We believe the data and the testing fully demonstrate E-15 to be safe and effective for all vehicles.”
In fact, Hartwig says preliminary research by RFA indicates that “E-20 would be safe in all vehicles.”
Then there’s the sign. EPA is proposing an ugly, orange, warning placard to slap on all E-15 pumps. It reads, “Caution! Use only in 2007 or newer cars, 2007 or newer light-duty trucks. This fuel might damage other vehicles.”
Hartwig says the proposed EPA warning is not only factually inaccurate and unnecessarily alarming, “but it may even deter people from using any ethanol blend at all. Why EPA is doing it this way, I don’t think anybody knows.”
The last line of the warning states, “Federal law prohibits its use in other vehicles and engines.”
Does this mean a slipup at Save-A-Lot could put you in the slammer? Probably not, but I just have to say it. “What you in for young fella. You don’t say. You put E-15 in your ’01?”
It’s hard to know how retailers will react to the ruling, according to Hartwig. “I don’t know that retailers are going to want to have one pump for cars of this age and another pump for cars of that age, when they could continue to offer E-10 for everybody. I don’t know the answer to that.
“We believe EPA should have approved it for all vehicles. Even approving E-12 for all vehicles would have been immediately helpful as an interim step before we move higher.”
Hartwig noted that in order to meet the consumption demands of the Renewable Fuels Standard by 2022, the ethanol percentage in gasoline needs to be somewhere around 25 percent to 27 percent. That would require a combination of higher level blends like E-40 or E-85, as well as bringing up the base level blend to somewhere around an E-20.
The RFA has done the right thing by staying positive, noting that the EPA waiver is a step in the right direction. But the ruling is still one ugly sow’s ear.