Consumer choice at the pump takes a step backward today as the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) restriction on summertime E15 ethanol sales goes into effect, underscoring the need for Congress to pass the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act and restore consumer choice year-round.
An arcane regulatory barrier limits the ability of fuel retailers to offer 15 percent ethanol blends in most of the country from June 1 to September 15.
“This regulation handcuffs fuel retailers who want to offer E15 to customers year-round,” said Ethanol Action Team Chair Paul Jeschke, a farmer from Mazon, Illinois. “And, because E15 typically costs less per gallon than regular gas, consumers lose the opportunity to save money during the summer driving season when they make more stops to fill up.”
Federal law and regulations limit the amount of evaporative emissions from vehicle fuel, which is measured by its Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP). Fuels blended with up to 10 percent ethanol have a one pound RVP waiver because ethanol-blended fuels reduce tailpipe emissions. To date, the EPA has declined to grant a similar waiver for 15 percent ethanol blends, although new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is reviewing the agency’s legal authority when it comes to changing this regulation. E15 produces lower emissions than regular gasoline, and E15 can be sold year-round in areas with air quality challenges.
The bipartisan Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act (S. 517, H.R. 1311) clarifies that blends greater than 10 percent, such as E15, should receive the same RVP treatment as E10, eliminating this annual consumer confusion at the pump. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the Senate bill, and Reps. Adrian Smith (R-Nebraska) and David Loebsack (D-Iowa) introduced the House bill. Enacting this legislation would lead more retailers to offer E15, give consumers a choice that saves money, enhance vehicle performance, and improve the environment.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to hold a hearing on this legislation in June, and NCGA urges the Committee to approve and advance the legislation this summer.
“We applaud the Senate co-sponsors of this legislation for getting this bill on the agenda this summer, and we ask Senators to back this common-sense solution,” said Jeschke. “The RVP issue is a significant hurdle to expanding consumer access to higher ethanol blends. Congress should step up and remove this barrier so consumers can have more choice, and more savings, at the pump all year long.”