The fight over upping the ethanol blend in America's gasoline continues with an entire series of salvos from the different camps. What's at stake is raising the amount of ethanol blended into the gasoline supply from a maximum of 10 percent today (making fuel known as E10) to either E12 or E15.

The biggest news recently was a study commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) that found that E15 would be just fine for older vehicles on the road. This was followed by the DOE saying it would finish testing E15 in model year 2007 and newer cars by the end of September and 2001-2006 vehicles by November. The EPA says it will make its decision on the E15 blend once it gets the DOE's data.

Edmunds, though, has told the EPA that it should wait until other, ongoing tests are completed next year. Saying, "it is unfair to ask consumers to become the guinea pigs," Edmunds also recommended making E15 an additional optional blend, not a requirement.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers also sent a letter to the EPA (available after the jump) requesting a delay in the decision. The letter says, in part:
Mid Level Blend testing by EPA, DOE and the Coordinating Research Council will continue into 2011 for exhaust emissions, on board diagnostics (OBD-II), fuel system durability, evaporative testing, air quality, engine durability, fuel handling, fuel dispenser materials, and cold start drivability. Taking the precautions of awaiting the results of these tests, and providing these results for public notice and comment before ruling, would help assure a safe and positive consumer experience.
The RFA's response to the people against implementing E15 sooner rather than later? This:
Their goal is to continue America's reliance on oil despite the dangers to our economy, our environment, and our security that it poses.
While the OEMs and the ethanol industry and others fight it out, Green Car Advisor (part of Edmunds) found that the lower energy content of ethanol compared to gasoline, even when compensated by the biofuel's ofter-lower price could affect drivers in a big way:
The annual cost to consumers of a mid-range 5 percent drop in fuel economy with E15 used in post-1994 vehicles would be about $1 billion, rising to $12.3 billion if fuel economy dropped by 10 percent.
There are a host of other issues – water use, fertilizers used to grow the corn, corn prices and more, detailed here – that all point to the logic of holding off on this decision. Still, there is a chance that the EPA could make a decision in mid-October. If that happens, then we might see E15 in our pumps by spring 2011.

[Source: Reuters, Cattle Network, Edmunds, Renewable Fuels Association]


FROM THE AUTO ALLIANCE

September 21, 2010
Sent electronically to mccarthy.gina@epa.gov

Gina McCarthy Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation
USEPA Headquarters
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.
Mail Code 6101A
Washington, DC 20460

Re: Pending Decision on Growth Energy Petition for Waiver for E15 Docket ID. No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0211

Dear Assistant Administrator McCarthy:
I am writing to let you know that the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Alliance) continues to have concerns regarding the imminent decision by EPA on the Growth Energy E15 waiver request, without the Agency having the benefit of completion of the additional mid-level ethanol blend tests still pending. These concerns have been expressed in a number of comments, letters, emails, and meetings, but I am sending this letter today to reconfirm our position that there is not sufficient testing completed to rule in late September, October or November (contra to your letter to The Honorable Charles Gonzalez dated August 24, 2010). A ruling without completed testing is not supported by our members as original equipment manufacturers.

Mid Level Blend testing by EPA, DOE and the Coordinating Research Council will continue into 2011 for exhaust emissions, on board diagnostics (OBD-II), fuel system durability, evaporative testing, air quality, engine durability, fuel handling, fuel dispenser materials, and cold start drivability. Taking the precautions of awaiting the results of these tests, and providing these results for public notice and comment before ruling, would help assure a safe and positive consumer experience. As you are aware, many other groups also support this position, including the California Air Resources Board (CARB). As mentioned in the CARB comments on the Growth Energy petition, sufficient long-term durability, operability, exhaust, and evaporative emissions testing have not been completed.

It is in the best interest of all participants, including EPA, DOE, and the ethanol industry, that the Agency not rule prematurely on such a sizable change significantly impacting government, industry, and a huge national market of consumers.

Sincerely yours,
Julie C. Becker Vice President, Environment
cc: Honorable Charles Gonzalez