WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency removed a summertime restriction on the sale of E15, a gasoline blend containing 15% corn-based ethanol.

The EPA’s final rule lifts a 2011 ban on the gasoline blend. Retailers throughout most of the country were prohibited from offering E15 between June and September based on concerns it contributes to smog.

Under the expansion, E15 would be allowed to be sold year-round without additional Reid vapor pressure control rather than just eight months of the year.

The one pound per square inch waiver for RVP was approved by EPA for year-round E10 sales in 1992, but not for E15.

Ethanol volatility is the property of a liquid fuel that defines its evaporation characteristics. RVP is a common measure for gasoline volatility.

EPA regulated the vapor pressure of gasoline sold at retail stations during the summer ozone season to reduce evaporative emissions from gasoline that contribute to ground-level ozone and diminish the effects of ozone-related health problems, according to the EPA.

Stations are not required to sell E15, but some have started offering E15 due to equipment grants and better profit margins when compared with regular gasoline.

E10 remains the limit for passenger vehicles older than model year 2001 and for other non-road and small engines and vehicles that use gasoline, such as lawn mowers, motorcycles, and boats.

E15 is not widely available, but it is currently sold at more than 1,700 stations in 30 states.

Through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership, $210 million was set aside for the installation of new ethanol infrastructure, which began in 2016 and is expected to be completed in 2019.

Vehicles approved for E15 use:

  • Flexible fuel vehicles.
  • Conventional vehicles of model year 2001 and newer.
  • Vehicles prohibited from using E15:
  • All motorcycles.
  • All vehicles with heavy-duty engines, such as school buses and delivery trucks.
  • All off-road vehicles, such as boats and snowmobiles.
  • All engines in off-road equipment, such as chain saws and gasoline lawn mowers.
  • All conventional vehicles older than model year 2001.

Growth Energy, the nation’s largest association of ethanol producers and supporters, estimates this change will generate over 1 billion new gallons of ethanol demand in the next five years and over time demand for E15 could boost the market for American grain by an additional 2 billion bushels.

Voices

As expected, pro and anti-biofuel voiced their positions on the EPA ruling.

“This is a clear win for consumers, a clear win for corn farmers, and a clear win for air quality improvements as ethanol provides a low-carbon source of octane. We have long held the position that EPA has the legal authority based on congressional intent and precedent to make this decision. Our corn farmers are experiencing a perfect storm of economic and weather difficulties. This is a sign that the skies could be clearing. We hope that this is just one of many decisions to come from the administration that will allow for greater market access for corn and corn-based products through exports and expanded domestic market access.”

“The E15 partial waivers have been controversial and were opposed by many groups, including refiners, automakers, small equipment and boat manufacturers, boat owners, motorcycle groups, food groups and the environmental community. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA does not have the authority to grant such a partial waiver. The agency cannot approve E15 for use in only some — but not all — engines. In addition, by basing its decision to raise the legal limit from 10% to 15% ethanol on new data that had not been reviewed by the public, EPA did not follow proper regulatory procedure in granting the partial waiver.”

“After years of declining farm income, opening up markets to additional fuel choices for consumers helps create new demand that farmers desperately need.”

“EPA’s decision to expand the sale of E15 gasoline to the summer months makes no sense. It is clearly contrary to the law and it reverses nearly 30 years of statutory interpretation from the agency.”

“We are grateful to President Trump for delivering on his promise to unleash the power of E15 all year-long. The approval of year-round E15 is an incredible milestone for the biofuels industry and the result of over a decade of hard work by Growth Energy, our members, our congressional champions and folks all across rural America who made their voices heard. With year-round E15, retailers will have the regulatory certainty they need to offer American drivers a cleaner, more affordable fuel choice throughout the year. This action also means savings for American motorists at the pump and a sorely needed market for farmers who are facing a devastating economic downturn.”

Tom C. Doran can be reached at 815-780-7894 or tdoran@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow him on Twitter at: @AgNews_Doran.

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