Op-Ed: David Merrell, Steve Nelson and Ted Free: E15 fuel use worthy of expansion

Source: By David Merrell and Steve Nelson, Omaha World Herald • Posted: Sunday, July 16, 2017

Later this month, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will consider legislation from U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., called the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act. Nebraska’s energy and agriculture stakeholders wish to thank her for her efforts.

Fischer’s legislation is critical to E15 adoption and expansion in Nebraska and throughout the country. E15 is a clean-burning, 15-percent ethanol blend, which is approved for all vehicles manufactured in 2001 or later.

This renewable fuel is the most widely tested fuel ever. Through repeated trials, E15 has been shown to boost engine performance, increase horsepower and run cleaner through engine valves — all without sacrificing fuel economy or vehicle performance. E15 also saves consumers money at the pump while reducing our demand for foreign oil.

Despite the overwhelming benefits of this higher octane fuel, E15 causes confusion at the pump.

Current EPA regulations limit the usage of E15 to Flex Fuel vehicles during the “high ozone season,” which is June 1 through Sept. 15. The rest of the year, any vehicle 2001 or newer can use E15. However, E15 is well suited to be used throughout the year for all vehicles 2001 or newer, regardless of Flex Fuel status.

The reason for the current limitation on E15 has to do with the Reid Vapor Pressure rating, which currently has a ceiling of 9.0 pounds per square inch. Measured alone, ethanol and gasoline are both below that RVP threshold, but our most common ethanol blend — E10 — rises above that number.

E10 is a 10-percent ethanol blend, which comprises almost all of U.S. gasoline today. In 1990, an amendment to the Clean Air Act included waiver language for the sale of E10. This waiver gave a 1.0 psi exemption to E10, since that blend exceeds 9.0 psi. Ethanol industry representatives say E15 has a lower RVP than E10 because the RVP goes down as more ethanol is added.

By allowing the sale of E15 year-round for all 2001 or newer vehicles, confusion would be eliminated at the pump, and consumers would have a choice — the choice to choose local, to help the environment and save money in the process.

Fischer understands the importance of correcting the RVP problem. We thank her for her unwavering support of our state and our ag industry. We look forward to working with her to ensure that Nebraska’s ethanol industry continues growing.

Merrell is chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. Nelson is president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau. Free is president of Renewable Fuels Nebraska.