Iowa producers ask Obama to allow greater use after Hurricane Sandy

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, November 5, 2012

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, renewable fuel producers in Iowa have asked the Obama administration to allow higher amounts of ethanol to be blended in gasoline in the Northeast.

In a letter yesterday to President Obama, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said temporarily allowing up to 20 percent ethanol in gasoline would help lower gas prices for victims of the superstorm. The association urged the administration to waive requirements that gasoline retailers must comply with before selling the higher blends of ethanol.

“Hundreds of millions of gallons of ethanol are in storage and dozens of ethanol plants are running at reduced rates or have been idled,” Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw wrote. “By removing the restrictions to higher ethanol blends on a temporary basis consumers win, clean air wins and American energy security wins.”

U.S. EPA has already waived its requirements until Nov. 20 for reformulated gasoline, or fuel that burns more cleanly than conventional gasoline, in areas affected by the hurricane.

The Iowa association is asking for a similar-length waiver of requirements to allow higher ethanol use.

Ethanol producers say their product reduced wholesale gas prices by more than $1 per gallon last year, though that figure is disputed by the oil industry, which argues that a car cannot drive as far on ethanol as it can on straight petroleum-based gasoline.

Currently, EPA allows up to 15 percent ethanol, or E15, to be blended into gasoline for cars from model years 2001 or newer, but the agency requires retailers and producers to comply with measures, such as labeling requirements, before the fuel can be sold.

“While IRFA understands the need for a more rigorous process to approve new fuels on a permanent basis, the available research clearly shows no harm would come from the use of these fuels during the brief duration of this emergency,” Shaw wrote. “Immediate action should be taken to allow retailers to offer these blends to consumers without the normal federal red tape involved.”

States are taking similar actions to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

In New York today, the Department of Environmental Protection announced a one-month waiver of the state’s 2 percent biodiesel requirement for heating oil after determining there was a shortage of the oil. The department also said it would issue temporary work permits on a streamlined basis to repair or replace damaged boilers.