U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and David Vitter, R-La., last week introduced legislation to block an increase in the amount of ethanol that can be blended with gasoline, aiming to overturn Environmental Protection Agency waivers that allowed gasoline containing 15% ethanol to be used for many passenger cars and light trucks. The Wicker-Vitter bill would also prohibit the EPA Administrator from granting any waiver for a blend above 10% ethanol
Both Wicker and Vitter say the higher blend of ethanol can cause engine damage, reduce fuel efficiency, and contribute to higher corn prices and rising food costs for American consumers.
"EPA's flawed waivers allowing E15 amount to government bureaucrats issuing short-sighted regulations that negatively impact families and businesses across the country," Wicker said. "The concerns surrounding E15 that existed prior to the waivers have increased instead of diminishing."
But, after February's oil price boom, Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, said the bill does nothing more than take choices away from consumers.
"This legislation is denying consumers the voluntary choice of a less expensive, higher performing fuel," Buis said in a press statement. "After 35 days of increasing gas prices, and record costs, isn't it time we did something different? Why are lawmakers fighting to embrace our dependence on foreign oil and the failed status quo? This legislation places the heavy hand of government on the scales in favor of one industry over another, preventing the free market from operating as it should. American motorists should have the ability to choose their fuel based on price and performance, not a monopoly at the pump."
Buis also pointed out a Department of Energy study that tested 86 cars for more than six million miles without any durability issues, and NASCAR cars using the fuel for more than three million miles.
Yet, Vitter says it is irresponsible for EPA to allow E15 without sufficient testing and technical analysis.
"I support an all-inclusive energy strategy, but experimenting before understanding the consequences and potential cost of using E15 is unfair to consumers," Vitter noted.
EPA issued two waivers to permit the use of E15 – the first, in 2010, was for use in cars and light trucks model year 2007 or later. The second, in 2011, allowed E15 to be used in vehicles model year 2001 to 2006.
The Senators also pointed out November 2012 AAA claims that E15 could cause possible engine damage. AAA noted that it found in a survey a strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage as a result of E15 availablity and/or use. Ethanol groups largely dismissed AAA claims.
Click here to read a copy of the Wicker-Vitter bill.