Biofuels Groups Make Case for Change on E15

Source: By Todd Neeley, DTN Staff Reporter • Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A number of biofuels groups testified before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago Tuesday at a hearing on an agency proposal to make some tweaks to the Renewable Fuel Standard to help perpetuate the growth of higher ethanol blends.

The growth support rule proposed by EPA would define fuel blends containing 16% to 83% ethanol as ethanol flex fuel, and to no longer treat blends of 16% to 50% as gasoline. The change would allow E25 and E30 blends to be sold in blender pumps for flex fuel vehicles.

One of the concerns from ethanol interest groups was the rule would leave E15 as the only ethanol blend that does not have Reid vapor pressure, or RVP, relief. RVP is the measure of a fuel’s volatility and the agency regulates RVP to prevent smog from vehicle emissions.

Geoff Cooper, senior vice president at the Renewable Fuels Association, said during testimony before the EPA Tuesday the RFA will continue to push EPA to fix the RVP disparity,….

“RFA first encouraged EPA to level the playing field for the RVP of E10 and E15 in 2010, when we formally requested that EPA use its administrative authority to simply apply the 1.0 psi RVP waiver for E10 to E15 as well,” he said. “We understand the REGS rulemaking process is not intended to address RVP standards for E15, but it does accentuate the importance of resolving this barrier. We again strongly encourage EPA to take immediate action separately to either limit the RVP of conventional gasoline to 8.0 psi in the summertime, or extend the 1.0 psi waiver to E15.”

The RVP requirement limits where and when E15 can be sold.

Chris Bliley, director of regulatory affairs for Growth Energy said during testimony Tuesday the group is concerned the REGs rule could hurt the development of the E15 market.

“While we certainly appreciate and support the regulatory clarity and vapor pressure relief for ethanol flex fuels, we are concerned about the impact of this proposal on the developing market for E15,” Bliley said.

“While the proposal doesn’t directly address E15, it would isolate E15 as the only ethanol-blended fuel that does not receive Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) relief in conventional areas. This would deny retailers and consumers the choice of cleaner, less-expensive E15 in a large portion of the country during the height of the summer driving season.

“It is imperative that E15 be given the same RVP treatment as regular E10 gasoline because of its benefit to our nation’s air quality. Without relief, nearly 1,000 retailers will be forced to change their fuel blend to 16% ethanol and limit their sale to flex fuel vehicles, which represent a mere 8% of the total auto fleet, from June 1 to Sept. 15 in conventional gasoline markets.”

Bliley said Growth Energy also supports new pathways to help develop cellulosic biofuels.

“The RFS injects competition and consumer choice into the vehicle fuels marketplace,” he said in the testimony.

“It is moving America forward. With more and more retailers moving toward E15, and the USDA investments through the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership, now is exactly the wrong time to orphan E15 as the only fuel that cannot be sold consistently year-round.”