Bill would halt E15 use until further study

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013

U.S. EPA would be forced to withdraw its approval of E15, or gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, under legislation introduced yesterday by vocal ethanol opponent Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).

The bill, which Sensenbrenner circulated at a hearing earlier this week on E15, also would compel the agency to commission an 18-month study of the fuel blend by the National Academy of Sciences. EPA would not be allowed to reapprove E15 until the study was completed and presented to two separate congressional committees.

Sensenbrenner has expressed concerns with the testing that EPA and the Department of Energy did before approving the fuel, saying the agencies only tested for emissions from the fuel and did not account for possible engine damage. Representatives from the motorcycle and auto industries told members of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment that they had similar concerns with EPA’s testing of the fuel (E&E Daily, Feb. 26).

The potential National Academy study, Sensenbrenner said at the hearing, would be a “truly objective analysis.”

Last year, he introduced similar legislation before EPA issued final approval of E15 for use in cars that are model years 2001 and newer. The legislation passed the House Science, Space and Technology Committee but died on the House floor.

The American Petroleum Institute yesterday applauded the Sensenbrenner legislation, which comes just weeks after Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and David Vitter (R-La.) introduced similar legislation that would reverse EPA’s approval of E15.

“This legislation is an important first step toward protecting consumers from unknowingly damaging their vehicles and voiding their warranties by using E15,” said Bob Greco, API director of downstream activities, in statement. “EPA approved E15 before vehicle testing was complete, and we now know the fuel may cause significant mechanical problems in millions of cars on the road today.”

Gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol is the most widely used fuel on the market. Ethanol groups petitioned EPA to increase the level to 15 percent, saying the expansion was needed to help support the industry.

“E15 is a safe, clean, high-quality fuel that has the potential to drive our country toward a cleaner, more secure energy future,” Fuels America, a coalition of biofuels, agriculture and national security interests, said Tuesday. “It actually helps engines perform better and has fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline.”