Here’s an update on recent news items and other public policy developments during the last few weeks relating to the use and market acceptance of 15% blends of ethanol into gasoline (“E15”) and other higher blends of ethanol such as E85.
Regulation of E15 storage at gas station underground storage tanks. The Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA), in a January 8, 2013 letter, has called for EPA to withdraw a proposed rule updating the regulations for underground storage tanks (USTs), that included proposals for upgrading USTs to ensure compatibility with E15. This proposed rule was published on November 18, 2011, and attracted almost 200 responses during the public comment period that closed in April 2012. The proposed rule would specify how UST operators could prove tank compatibility with fuels having more ethanol than E10, more biodiesel than B20, or for other fuels such as biobutanol. Specifically, UST operators would need either to have UST system components certified or listed by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory, or to receive written approval of compatibility from the component manufacturer, or use another method acceptable to EPA. It is known that gas station operators are also concerned over these changes, which would be difficult to implement for UST that have been in place for many years, as well as other large capital expense infrastructure changes needed to accommodate E15 such as new gasoline dispensing systems (e.g. see these trade association comments on the EPA rule). In asking EPA to withdraw the proposed rule, PMAA has asked EPA to convene an expert panel to review and help mitigate the costs of the rule on small businesses.
Update: Proposed anti-E15 legislation in Maine. I had previously reported that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection was preparing to propose a bill that would ban the sale of gasoline containing more than 10% ethanol if at least two other New England states adopt a similar ban. It has now been reported that a state representative has introduced two related bills in the legislature. One of these bills would limit the percentage of corn-derived ethanol in Maine gasoline to 5%; and the other would allow the state to form a coalition with other New England states to create an ethanol-free gasoline market, which would be supplied by the Canadian petroleum-vendor Irving. The legislator, Rep. Jeff Timberlake, appears to have been motivated by the alleged damages ethanol causes to small engines, and by an opposition to the use of corn to produce fuel, and the subsidies he believes farmers are paid to grow corn for ethanol.
Update: Florida Renewable Fuel Standard Act. I previously reported on a bill that was filed in the Florida state legislature that would repeal that state’s Renewable Fuel Standard Act and remove the requirement that ethanol be blended into all gasoline sold in Florida. More recently, it has been reported that the Florida Agriculture Commissioner has dropped his opposition to this pending bill, House Bill 4001. The Commissioner’s opposition was reportedly key to blocking previous repeal attempts.
State Policies for E15. A recent article in Ethanol Producer News stated that E15 is available in Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska as well as one gas station in South Dakota. E15 is not yet available in Illinois although the infrastructure is in place and several retailers are preparing to sell E15. Other states may need to amend their laws to allow E15 sales: for example, although Missouri has an agriculture department that is generally friendly to ethanol, its laws specifically mention E10, so that legislative action will be needed to allow the sale of E15 in that state.
- The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association is mounting a push to promote greater acceptance of E15 at the state’s gas stations, and the Association lined up speakers to address E15 and consumer choice at the 7th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit on January 30.
- The Nebraska Corn Board hosted a meeting for ethanol infrastructure stakeholders on January 30, to discuss the steps needed to offer E15 for sale, among other topics.
Another study alleges that E15 causes engine damage. Another report has been issued that purports to show that E15 can damage fuel system components. The report, entitled “Durability of Fuel Pumps and Fuel Level Senders in Neat and Aggressive E15“, was issued by the Coordinating Research Council (CRC). As summarized in Biofuels Digest, the report claims to have shown that E15 can cause problems such as an elevated incidence of fuel pump failures, fuel system component swelling, and impairment of fuel measurement systems that could cause erratic and misleading fuel gauge readings or cause faulty check engine light illuminations. As reported in Ethanol Producer magazine, the ethanol industry is vigorously disputing this study, saying its study design is flawed and that it used an outdated fuel for this testing. For what its worth, this article in Ethanol Producer magazine also notes that the American Petroleum Institute is a “sustaining member” of CRC.
E85 Availability in Virginia. The first three service stations offering E85 in Virginia have opened. The stations are operated by MAPCO Express, which is obtaining the fuel from Protec Fuel, and which has rebranded their retail stores under the “East Coast” brand.
Previous Biofuel Policy Watch posts on ethanol policy:
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