Ethanol Blog

Ernst Asks Wheeler In Letter to Take E15 Action by October

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has asked EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to take actions to make E15 more widely available. (DTN file photo)

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, asked EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to take actions to expand the market for E15 based on promises made by the Trump administration in recent years, in a letter sent to Wheeler on Tuesday.

Ernst said that during a White House meeting last year Wheeler agreed to take several actions to bolster E15 availability.

"Two years ago, I worked successfully with you and President Trump to get E15 sold year-round," she said in the letter.

"One year later, we sat in the Oval Office and created an agreement to further strengthen the Renewable Fuel Standard by investing in biofuel infrastructure including streamlining labeling and removing other barriers to the sale of E15. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great loss of demand for biofuels. You must act now to initiate a rulemaking process and follow through on this agreement to provide certainty to our Iowa farmers."

Ernst asked Wheeler during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works earlier this year, when the agency was on taking E15 actions.

"You said that it was 'more complicated,'" Ernst said in the letter.

"I fail to understand where the complications lie. According to the National Renewable Energy Lab all steel tanks are approved for up to 100% ethanol, as are all double-walled fiberglass tanks since 1990 –- over 30 years ago. Given the lifespan of underground tanks, almost every underground fuel tank should be able to handle E15 and higher blends of ethanol."

Ernst said two fuel dispensing companies, Wayne and Gilbarco, account for more than 90% of the market share of gasoline dispensers in the United States.

"All Wayne dispensers in service today carry a warranty and are compatible with ethanol blends up to 15%," she said.

"Any Gilbarco dispenser installed 2008 or later carries a warranty for up to 15% ethanol. The approximate life of a dispenser is 10 to 15 years, so similarly to the tanks there are very few pumps out there that are not warrantied for E15.

"Last but not least, regarding labeling, we are now two decades removed from when a car was manufactured that was not approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for E15 use (model year 2001 and newer). This represents over 95% of the vehicle miles traveled and more than nine out of 10 cars on the road today."

Ernst said consumers have driven more than 15 billion miles on E15, retailers have had "millions of transactions, and it has been sold for nearly a decade (since 2011), all without a single reported issue. It makes little sense why the black and orange warning label cannot be addressed immediately."

Ernst ends the letter by asking for answers to three questions:

-"Will you commit to begin the rulemaking by Oct. 4, 2020, one year after the RFS agreement was announced, to move forward with expediting the sale of E15 through existing infrastructure?

-"You have said this is a complicated issue, please provide detailed clarification as to what you view as the remaining hurdles in this process.

-"The EPA already approves E15 for all 2001 and newer light-duty vehicles which account for 95% of the vehicle miles driven today. Will you move forward with rulemaking to remove the unnecessary labeling before Oct. 4? If not, when do you plan to address this pressing issue that you committed to last fall?"

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow me on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

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