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.
House subcommittee holds one-sided hearing on E15. On February 26, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing on “Mid-Level Ethanol Blends: Consumer and Technical Research Needs”. The only witnesses were representatives from the Automobile Association of America, the American Motorcyclist Association, and the Coordinating Research Council; the former two of whom are opposed to the sale of E15 ethanol blends, in large part based on the negative findings of the study conducted by the third witness’s organization; a study that has been criticized as flawed by DOE, EPA and the ethanol industry. These witnesses and the four Republican subcommittee members were all critical of E15 and said that more research is needed before it should have been approved. Among the documents introduced by subcommittee Republicans was the proposed anti-E15 legislation that Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) recently drafted. The only voice speaking out in favor of E15 was newly-elected Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), the sole Democrat who attended the hearing. Ethanol industry groups have criticized the hearing for not inviting E15 proponents, and have submitted written comments to the subcommittee in support of E15.
Sensenbrenner bill calls for further study of E15. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) has now introduced a bill relating to E15 ethanol that was originally discussed at the February 26 subcommittee hearing. The bill, H.R. 875, would not only repeal EPA’s granted waivers for E15, but would also require EPA to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a comprehensive assessment of available research on E15 and all “mid-level” ethanol blends. The bill would also prohibit EPA from granting additional E15 waivers until the results of the NAS study were submitted to Congress. The ethanol industry has criticized the bill as being unnecessary in view of the extensive testing E15 has already undergone.
Updates on proposed state legislation affecting fuel ethanol.
- In New Hampshire, House Bill 362, which would ban the use of “corn-based” ethanol in the state, was passed by the state House of Representatives on March 13. Its prospects in the Senate are not known.
- There are now four bills pending in Maine relating to ethanol: LD115, which would ban the sale of corn-based ethanol if at least two other New England states adopted a similar ban, LD453, which would ban the sale of gasoline with greater than 10% ethanol, also subject to similar action by two other New England states, LD105, which would allow blenders or retail dealers to sell gasoline with 5% ethanol, and LD261, which would specify that distributors, benders or dealers would not be required to sell gasoline containing 10% or more ethanol. All these bills have been referred to the Environment and Natural Resources Committees in both houses, and hearings are reportedly to be held the week of March 18.
- In Florida, House Bill 4001 that would repeal that state’s Renewable Fuel Standard Act and remove the requirement that ethanol be blended into all gasoline sold in Florida, received a favorable vote on February 19 from the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee and is now before the full Regulatory Affairs Committee. An identical bill, SB 320, was filed in the Senate and has been referred to committee.
- In Illinois, as previously reported, there is a bill pending in the legislature that would transfer a sales tax incentive now available for E10 fuel to E15. A hearing was held on the bill, Senate Bill 52, on March 12. Representatives of the state’s corn growers and ethanol industry supported the bill, while the oil industry, gas station owners and others opposed the bill. The bill has been sponsored by Senator John Sullivan, who is in favor of establishing incentives for adoption of E15.
Minnesota biofuels bill being considered. A state legislature committee in Minnesota was scheduled to hold a hearing on February 27 to consider a bill that would set a targeted goal for 30% of the state’s gasoline supply to consist of biofuels by 2025, which would be achieved in incremental stages. The bill would also amend currently laws relating to the use of ethanol as a fuel additive so that they would instead apply to “biofuels” and would thus cover butanol and other biofuels in addition to ethanol. The bill was written by Rep. Jeanne Poppe and is supported by the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association. According to a later report, the bill, pending as Senate Bill 448 and House Bill 462, has progressed through several hearings.
Iowa E15 retail locations. Service stations in Baxter, Iowa and Cresco, Iowa have begun offering E15, bringing the state’s total of E15 retail locations to four. The Cresco location is a new station reportedly constructed explicitly to offer mid-level ethanol blends such as E15.
E85 vehicle available on auction. The Advanced Vehicle Research Center is auctioning a 2007 Pontiac G-6 that was part of a large E85 ethanol research project. The highly modified engine in this vehicle was designed and developed to be able to take advantage of the higher octane property of E85 fuel to increase thermal efficiency. Through the use of supercharging, optimized geometric compression ratio of 14.1 to 1 and other base engine changes, vehicle performance is comparable to that of a production V6 vehicle with four cylinders, while exhibiting only a negligible fuel economy penalty. Non-E85 gasoline operation is also possible with appropriate modifications. The auction site can be accessed here, or questions can be addressed by e-mail to Mr. Glenn Edmonds at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Advanced Vehicle Research Center is a private for-profit company located in Raleigh North Carolina, that focuses on research and commercialization of alternative fuel vehicles and energy transportation technologies.
Previous Biofuel Policy Watch posts on ethanol policy:
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