EPA Notifies Ethanol Industry Group on Status of E15 Waiver Request

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week said that it expects to make a final determination in mid-2010 regarding whether to increase the allowable ethanol content in fuel.

In a letter sent to Growth Energy – a bio fuels industry association that had asked EPA to grant a waiver that would allow for the use of up to 15 percent of ethanol in gasoline – the agency said that while not all tests have been completed, the results of two tests indicate that engines in newer cars likely can handle an ethanol blend higher than the current 10-percent limit. The agency will decide whether to raise the blending limit when more testing data is available.

EPA also announced that it has begun the process to craft the labeling requirements that will be necessary if the blending limit is raised. In March 2009, Growth Energy requested a waiver to allow for the use of up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline, an increase of five percent points.

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was required to respond to the waiver request by December 1, 2009. EPA and the Department of Energy undertook a number of studies to determine whether cars could handle higher ethanol blends. Testing has been proceeding as quickly as possible given the available testing facilities.

Poet, the world’s largest ethanol producer, welcomed the letter from EPA.

“We were pleased that the EPA’s letter shows a clear path to E15,” said Jeff Broin, Poet’s CEO. “Without increasing the base blend of ethanol to E15, it will be impossible to achieve the targets set in the Renewable Fuel Standard and there will be no market for cellulosic ethanol. Poet is spending tens of millions of dollars to commercialize the production of ethanol from harvest leftovers but needs E15 to be certain there will be a market for the product.”

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