RFA hosts discussion to dispel E15 myths and misinformation

Source: By Matt Thompson, Ethanol Producer Magazine • Posted: Monday, October 29, 2018

The Renewable Fuels Association on Thursday held a panel discussion to address concerns about E15. Following President Donald Trump’s October announcement directing the U.S. EPA to lift restrictions on year-round E15 sales, RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper said the oil industry has targeted ethanol.

“The oil companies are pulling out the same myths and misinformation that we’ve disproven time and time again on E15. They say E15 damages automobile engines and that today’s vehicles aren’t warrantied or allowed to use E15. … The oil companies also claim that E15 would be worse for air quality than today’s gasoline. They say boaters and small engine owners are going to ignore mandated pump labels and illegally put E15 into their equipment. And now they’re arguing that EPA doesn’t even have the legal authority to make this regulatory fix. So really the purpose of our call today is to set the record straight on those issues and others and answer your questions about E15 and the things that you’re hearing,” Cooper said.

The panel was comprised of auto industry experts, attorneys, air quality experts and boating and small engine experts who addressed some of the claims raised by the oil companies.

Cooper cited a study just completed by RFA regarding new vehicles and E15. “I should point out that just this morning we released an analysis of model year 2019 owner’s manuals and warranty statements, and what that shows is that more than nine out of 10 new vehicles clearly, explicitly, unequivocally include E15 as an approved fuel for the use in those vehicles,” he said.

When it’s used in those new vehicles, E15 does not contribute more to ozone pollution, according to Janet Yanowitz, who holds a doctorate in environmental engineering and has published several peer-reviewed papers regarding renewable fuels. “I know I read stories that say that people are concerned about smog and ozone, and really there is no evidence that E15 will increase tailpipe emissions of either [nitrogen oxides] or organics. Those are the two pollutants that cause ozone,” Yanowitz said during the discussion.

While E15 isn’t approved for small engines yet, Gary Burris, owner of Sport World Boat Center and a marine engine mechanic, said E10 isn’t an issue for the engines his business works on. “We’ve seen no problem with it. … We don’t see it doing anything different than standard fuel,” he said.

During the call, Cooper also addressed the government’s aggressive timeline for making E15 available to consumers year-round. EPA has indicated that it will have a final rule on E15 ready by May of 2019.

“That is a very short window and a very tight timeframe and doesn’t give EPA a whole lot of wiggle room to get this done. But they have pledged, as the president has pledged, that this will be done in time for next summer. We’re certainly hopeful that that’s the case, but it’s going to take the pedal to the metal to make that happen” Cooper said.

But that timeline may run into issues, as some have claimed EPA doesn’t have the authority to make the necessary changes in regulations. For E15 to be sold year-round, the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver that is currently applied to only E10 would need to be applied to E15 as well.

Matt Morrison, an environmental law attorney who worked at EPA, said he believes EPA can make that change. “Not only does it have the authority but extending the waiver to E15 would be consistent with the language in the statute, it would be consistent with the legislative history of the statute and the provisions, and also be consistent with congress’ goals of promoting renewable fuel use and energy independence,” Morrison said.