The Environmental Protection Agency's delay of its decision on the waiver to approve 15% ethanol blends in gasoline has raised more questions than it answered. Specifically, the Renewable Fuels Association wants more clarification from EPA on its apparent focus on vehicles model year 2001 and newer. RFA believes such a limitation could potentially limit the ethanol market by excluding some 40% of the vehicle market and causing both consumer confusion and retailer unwillingness to offer the product.
In its letter to EPA, RFA President Bob Dinneen wrote that nowhere in previous public statements has EPA detailed any rationale for such a limitation. All of the data of which we are aware demonstrates no adverse effects of higher level blends in any vehicles, regardless their vintage. The Renewable Fuels Association and the State of Minnesota conducted tests on 20% ethanol blends and uncovered no issues with respect to materials compatibility or drive-ability in the older vehicles tested.
Dinneen expressed concern that such a ruling would create unnecessary and burdensome requirements for fuel retailers, as well as confusion for consumers. Dinneen says that it is unlikely that retailers would be willing to offer both an E15 blend for newer model vehicles and E10 or less for older models. This scenario could effectively result in no increase in ethanol use, despite an approval of higher level blends.