Industry groups slam House panel for ‘one-sided’ look at E15

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ethanol advocates are heaping criticism on a House subpanel ahead of a hearing today that will take aim at U.S. EPA’s decision to approve a greater level of ethanol in gasoline.

The hearing this afternoon will feature representatives from the auto club AAA and the American Motorcyclist Association, both vocal critics of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol. A board member of the Coordinating Research Council, an oil-industry-funded vehicle research organization, is also scheduled to testify on studies that have found E15 causes engine damage to cars (E&E Daily, Feb. 25).

The witness list is stacked against the ethanol industry, the nation’s two main ethanol trade groups contended yesterday in letters to the leaders of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment.

“The subcommittee’s hearing on the ‘science’ of E15 seems inexplicably one-sided and devoid of an impartial discourse about science,” Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, wrote in the letter to subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-Md.) and ranking member Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.).

Tom Buis, CEO of the ethanol trade group Growth Energy, wrote that the hearing seemed to be “in line” with several other hearings that the Science, Space and Technology Committee has held on ethanol that have highlighted “some of our most vocal critics and failed to include any representatives of the ethanol production industry.”

“It is a shame that a congressional committee whose mission is to look at scientific evidence and data to make informed decisions instead relies upon conjecture and speculation” from critics, Buis said in a statement accompanying the letter.

Gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol is the most commonly used fuel currently in the marketplace. EPA approved E15 after finding it safe for use in cars with model years 2001 and newer after receiving petitions from the ethanol trade groups. In their letters, both Dinneen and Buis provided a defense of E15, arguing that its use is voluntary and that studies have shown ethanol reduces the price of fuel for consumers.

A spokesman for AAA yesterday said the group’s CEO and President Robert Darbelnet will testify today that EPA and the industry should suspend the sale of E15 until consumers are “better protected.”

The hearing is widely expected to be only the first of several this year on aspects of federal biofuels policy.