EPA takes surprise steps to increase ethanol in gasoline

Source: By JOHN SICILIANO, Washington Examiner • Posted: Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday proposed pushing higher blends of ethanol into the nation’s gasoline supply from 10-percent blends to 30-percent blends — and higher.

EPA’s proposed rule would promote the goals of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires refiners to blend increasing levels of corn ethanol and other biofuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel supplies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign sources of oil.

The technical changes were framed by the agency as part of President Obama‘s Climate Action Plan, laying out his broad agenda to reduce emissions that many scientists say are heating the planet and causing climate change.

“This proposal intends to provide regulatory clarification for ethanol blends from 16 percent to 50 percent ethanol, allowing blends such as E30 and E25 to be sold through blender pumps to flex fuel vehicles,” said ethanol industry trade group Growth Energy..

Most car models that are older than model year 2001 cannot effectively use ethanol blends that are higher than 15 percent, according to the EPA.

The proposal requires new sulfur limits for ethanol used in making 85-percent ethanol blends, or E85, for specially designed flexible fuel vehicles that can use the high-ethanol fuel. It would limit the amount of sulfur used to make E85 when using a byproduct from fracking known as “natural gasoline,” which is a type of liquefied gas that comes out of natural gas wells with dry natural gas.

The EPA for years had been tinkering with the idea of using the byproduct to spur the production of more E85. Natural gasoline’s fuel properties and the favorable economics make it a readily available blend stock for 85-percent ethanol blends, the agency said.

The proposed rule also makes changes to benefit the production of low-carbon cellulosic ethanol, which has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of any renewable fuel under the EPA fuel program.