Sensenbrenner continues E15 attack in response to EPA’s 4-gallon rule

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, August 13, 2012

Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R) today continued to hammer U.S. EPA over its decision to increase the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline, saying the agency was mandating how much gasoline American consumers can buy.

In a statement, Sensenbrenner, a longtime opponent of ethanol, circulated an Aug. 2 letter from EPA to the American Motorcyclist Association in which the agency said it would require vehicle owners purchasing gasoline from gas stations that sell higher ethanol blends out of the same hose to buy at least 4 gallons.

While the requirement would apply only at gas stations that sell E10 and E15 — gasoline blended with 10 percent and 15 percent ethanol, respectively — out of the same hose, Sensenbrenner said it would amount to a mandate on consumers.

“The EPA has no business mandating how much gasoline Americans have to buy when filling up at the pump,” Sensenbrenner said. “What if a rider doesn’t have a motorcycle with a 4-gallon tank? Or if someone wants to fill a canister for their lawn mower or outboard boat engine, but it only holds 2 or 3 gallons? Or what if an American, struggling in this economy, just can’t afford 4 gallons of gas?

Sensenbrenner called the requirement just “one more example of how problematic” EPA’s recent decision is to allow E15 to be sold in the United States, which would expand the amount of ethanol allowed in the nation’s fuel supply.

In October 2010, EPA approved the 15 percent blend for use in passenger vehicles from model years 2007 and later. The agency approved E15 for use in models from 2001 to 2006 in January 2011.

While Sensenbrenner’s statement came out today, EPA’s 4-gallon policy is about two months old — the agency approved it in mid-June as a part of a plan to address concerns about residual fuel left in gasoline tanks. EPA’s Aug. 2 letter to the motorcycle association addressed concerns laid out by the group in a June 20 letter.

The policy came in response to concerns that vehicles — such as motorcycles — not approved for E15 would accidentally fill up with gasoline containing E15. The approval of that plan was the final regulatory hurdle E15 had to pass before gas stations would be allowed to sell the fuel.

Gas station owners have the option of selling E15 from pumps that dispense the fuel from a dedicated nozzle. Retail gas stations must also use labeling to let vehicle owners know about the minimum requirements.

Last year, Sensenbrenner introduced legislation that would require EPA to commission further study of E15. That bill passed the House Science, Space and Technology Committee but has since stalled (Greenwire, Feb. 7).

Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for the ethanol trade group Renewable Fuels Association, criticized the latest attack.

“For nearly 30 years, ethanol has been a safe and effective component in gasoline use to the point that all engine makers today warranty their products for E10 use,” Hartwig said via email. “Nothing short of an end to America’s production of renewable fuels will satisfy those that share Mr. Sensenbrenner’s point of view. We don’t intend to let that happen.”