Subcommittee weighs bill to ease E15 to market

Source: Gabriel Nelson, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012

A new bill meant to help companies bring new fuel blends such as E15 to the marketplace will take its first step in Congress this week with a hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rep. John Shimkus, the Illinois Republican who introduced the bill (H.R. 4345) and chairs the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee, scheduled a hearing Thursday to discuss the proposal with members of the committee.

The bill would take a step sought by gas stations and allow new fuel blends to be stored and dispensed with ordinary equipment. It would also spare oil companies, engine manufacturers and fuel retailers from legal liability for any harm that might occur because of the use of E15 — gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol — or another fuel approved for use by U.S. EPA.

Ethanol supporters did battle for years with refiners, car companies and gas stations over E15, which won final approval from EPA last summer despite concerns that it could harm engines. And earlier this month, the agency approved applications from the first 20 companies to make the fuel blend (E&ENews PM, April 2).

Now that E15 is on its way, businesses want new rules to take shape. Some lawmakers are receptive to their arguments.

“There are currently no consistent standards or regulatory protections for the sale of all fuels,” Shimkus’ subcommittee said in an announcement of the hearing.

Some Democrats from corn-belt states have also gotten behind the bill, arguing that making it easier to sell the new fuel blends will increase demand for their home states’ products.

“A strong renewable fuels industry is essential to advancing the next generation of fuels from the farm, providing a competitive market for farmers and strengthening the rural economy,” said Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, in a statement upon the release of the bill. “This bill will increase availability, ensuring that Americans across the country have the opportunity to fuel their vehicles with domestic, renewable fuel.”

Schedule: The hearing is Thursday, April 19, at 9:30 a.m. in 2322 Rayburn.

Witnesses: To be announced.