Senate and House Bills Seek to Remove Regulatory Barriers for E15

Source: By Jessie Stolark, EESI • Posted: Monday, April 20, 2015

Two bills are making their way through the House and Senate related to E15 (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline). On March 31, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the ‘Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015’ which would remove some of the regulatory barriers for greater penetration of alternative fuels. Among other things, it would reform the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) requirements for E15 blends (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline), further removing regulatory hurdles for greater use of the fuel within the general gasoline supply.  A separate bill in the House, introduced on April 13 by Reps. Smith (R-NE), Buck (R-CO), and Noem (R-SD) would simply increase the RVP waiver, allowing for year-round sale of E15.

Reaching greater penetration of ethanol fuels in the general fuel supply has been difficult, despite the fact that E15 is the most tested fuel in the marketplace today. The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have certified its use in make and model years 2001 and newer, which represents more than 80 percent of all vehicles on the road today. These fuels have also been found to be safe for use with existing infrastructure, including gas station pumping equipment.  Additionally, over 70 percent of auto manufacturers have certified the use of E15 in new 2015 vehicles.

RVP measures how quickly fuel evaporates and EPA regulates RVP to control the amount of ozone precursors that are formed in the summertime. But since ethanol has a much lower evaporation temperature, it violates the EPA RVP standard, despite being a cleaner-burning fuel. Although EPA has waived the RVP standard for E10, it has not for E15. Therefore, it is difficult in many metro areas to sell E15, since most retailers don’t have the capability of switching between E15 and E10 in the winter and summer months.  According to Mick Henderson, General Manager of Kentucky’s Commonwealth Agri-Energy, “Without this legislation, gasoline refiners will continue to deny gasoline marketers the specially tailored blend stocks they need to sell E15 in the summer months.”

While the House bill extends the RVP waiver to E15, the Senate bill in addition, would remove liability from those who choose to modify engines for renewable or alternative fuels, allow the use of appropriate aftermarket engine conversion products, tax liquefied natural gas (LNG) on an energy content versus gallon basis, as well as boost the fuel economy of the fleets of ‘fuel choice enabling manufacturers,’ which are defined as fleets containing 50 percent or more of alternative and renewable fuels and technologies, including plug-in electric vehicles, hybrids, biodiesel, ethanol, methanol, natural gas, propane, and fuel cells.

Presidential hopeful and libertarian Sen. Paul (R-KY) frames the issue as one of choice and limited government, stating, “The EPA’s onerous regulation of fuels is artificially limiting options for consumers and producers and preventing the adoption of new fuel options that could benefit our environment, our economy, and our energy security.”  Paul appears to be walking the tightrope between appealing to Iowa and other early caucuses which are agriculture states while still ideologically disagreeing with the government being involved in consumer fuel choices. Ironically, without government intervention, the oil monopoly will only continue.

By floating a bill that helps further the cause of renewable fuels and by proxy, agricultural interests, he can appear to be ‘pro-RFS’ without ever discussing the law itself.  When asked by a reporter if Sen. Paul supports the RFS, an aide recently responded, “Sen. Paul supports removing regulatory barriers to the use of ethanol and other renewable fuels …He does not support the government telling consumers or businesses what type of fuel they must use or sell.” According to Rep. Smith (R-NE), the House bill would reduce the regulatory burden on renewable fuels, remarking that it’s past time to extend the RVP waiver to E15.

For more information see:

Sens. Paul, Grassley Introduce Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015

Rand Paul finds way to champion Iowa ethanol, The Des Moines Register

Smith Introduces Legislation to Increase Fuel Options for Consumers

Rand Paul Tries to Thread Iowa’s Political Needle On Ethanol, National Journal