The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday 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 on Tuesday, 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% limit.
In March 2009, Growth Energy requested a waiver to allow for the use of up to 15% ethanol in gasoline. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was required to respond to the waiver request by Dec. 1, 2009.
Growth Energy accepted the letter from EPA delaying the decision on the waiver as being a strong signal. Growth Energy says the EPA has taken a positive step towards higher blends of clean, green, and homegrown ethanol. Growth Energy expects EPA to approve E15 upon the completion of ongoing tests early next year.
General Wesley Clark, Co-Chairman of Growth Energy says the announcement is a positive message and he projects this move will create 136,000 neww U.S. jobs, cut greenhouse gas emissions and lessen America's dependence on imported oil.
The National Corn Growers Association says it is pleased with EPA's tacit endorsement of higher ethanol blends but is disappointed by the delay. NCGA President Darrin Ihnen says they are confident the Agency's further research will support E15 and urges EPA to work quickly and expeditiously to move toward higher blends.
In its response, EPA reported that's its initial testing is showing the viability of higher blends. EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote that as they are evaluating the E15 waiver petition, they want to make sure they have all necessary science to make the right decision. She noted, all of the studies have not been completed, however, the engineering assessment to date indicates that the robust fuel, engine and emissions control systems on newer vehicles will likely be able to accommodate higher ethanol blends, such as E15.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said USDA is very encouraged that the results of the tests of E15 in newer model cars have been positive.
"The Environmental Protection Agency's movement towards developing an effective labeling rule sends a strong signal about the future viability of the biofuels industry," Vilsack said. "Biofuels are a vital component of America's energy future, helping to break our dependence on oil."
Meanwhile, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley believes that there is ample evidence that demonstrates E15 should be approved. He says with this delay, the Obama administration is delaying the creation of thousands of new, green jobs, and creating even more uncertainty in an economy that needs some good news. According to Grassley it's time to make sure that renewable energy sources that are good for the environment, good for national security and good for rural America get the boost.
The Renewable Fuels Association also expressed disappointment that the decision was being delayed.
"This delay threatens to paralyze the continued evolution of America’s ethanol industry," said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. "Beyond the delay, another worrisome development is EPA’s apparent decision to limit the scope of its waiver research to vehicles model year 2001 and newer. The data to date has shown no ill-effects of increased ethanol use in any vehicle, regardless of model year. The RFA encourages EPA to look at the waiver request with the entire range of vehicles in mind or provide detailed, scientific rationale for excluding older model vehicles."