On Friday, the EPA cleared the way for 15% ethanol to be blended into the US fuel supply. After a year of government red tape, the so-called “blend wall” has been breached. Fuel manufacturers now have the freedom to begin blending 15% ethanol into gasoline, rather than the current 10%. Tom Buis, with Growth Energy, says this is good news, “This was a hurdle we had to clear, and now the focus move to the fuel retailers.” While the EPA must approve individual fuel blends, Buis said it now becomes a market driven issue rather than a regulatory one.
But the growth of E-15 still faces challenges: many states have not changed their laws to allow the higher ethanol blend and the program is voluntary. Buis told HAT it will really depend on fuel makers to choose whether to increase the blend or not, “Now it is up to the retailers and individual fuel companies to register for approval to sell E-15. With ethanol selling an average of 76 cents a gallon cheaper than gasoline and $4 a gallon gasoline on the horizon, we’d encourage all Americans to ask their local filling station how soon they will see more-affordable E15.” Growth Energy says the move to E-15 will create about 140,000 jobs and reduce foreign oil imports by 7 billion gallons.
Buis says, in the end, it will be consumers that will drive the demand for higher blends of ethanol. “This is a remarkable achievement by America’s clean, renewable fuels industry as moving to E15 results in reduced dependence on foreign oil, jobs here in America and consumer savings at the pump,” Buis said. “Growth Energy commits right now to the American public that we will work with the retail industry to bring E-15 to their stations. Now with a clear path forward toward a federally-approved, lower-cost fuel blend available as an antidote to the record gasoline prices we’re told to expect, we are encouraged that retailers will move quickly.”
Growth Energy first filed its petition seeking federal approval to increase blends of ethanol in fuel from the current 10 percent (E-10) to 15 percent (E-15) in March 2009. After rigorous testing of E-15’s impact on engine durability and auto emissions systems, EPA approved E-15 for voluntary use in all autos and light trucks built since 2001 – which today is more than 70 percent of all vehicles on the road. Growth Energy completed a host of other ensuing regulatory measures, including significant analysis and development of data and literature on the emissions and health effects of E-15.
Rosiland Leeck, Biofuels Program Manager with the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, says Indiana corn farmers are working hard to educate consumers about the benefits of ethanol blends, “We are in a society where consumers really drive demand, so we are going to meet that demand at all levels.” Indiana law already allows the blending of up to 15% ethanol in gasoline. Leeck says growth in the ethanol market will continue to take some time.
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