OMAHA (DTN) -- National ethanol groups are pushing for the market expansion of E15 on two fronts, putting pressure on Congress as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week to pass legislation and to change federal regulations.
With just 41 legislative days on the calendar for the rest of the year, some industry groups are holding out hope the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will approve legislation introduced March 2 to extend the Reid Vapor Pressure, or RVP, volatility waiver to gasoline blended with 15% ethanol.
Growth Energy this week along with POET-DSM, Novozymes, Protec Fuel and Kwik Trip, asked the Environment and Public Works Committee to advance the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act in the next few weeks. The bill was introduced by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; John Thune, R-S.D.; Charles Grassley, R-Iowa; and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa and supported by 18 bipartisan sponsors. In the House, Reps. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, and Adrian Smith, R-Neb., introduced similar legislation.
"This is a simple and long-overdue fix that will improve air quality, lower prices at the pump, and level the playing field for homegrown biofuels," Emily Skor, chief executive officer of Growth Energy, said in a statement.
Jeff Pinkerman, chairman of cellulosic ethanol developer POET-DSM's board of directors, said E15 is the key to growing cellulosic ethanol.
"For cellulosic biofuel to be successful in the U.S., we must eliminate artificial regulatory barriers that limit consumer choices and hinder the acceleration of new technologies," he said.
"The Reid Vapor Pressure limits on E15 stifle market competition and undermine our efforts to bring lower carbon fuels to drivers everywhere."
For years, the ethanol industry has called on the EPA to equalize the RVP regulations for E10 and E15 during the summer driving season. Because of those requirements, E15 has largely not been available to some wholesale suppliers and retailers during the summer. The industry has contended that adding 5% more ethanol in the summer would actually reduce tailpipe emissions.
Ethanol increases the RVP, which measures the release of volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere. The RVP for gasoline is the lowest, or most stringent, during the summer months when the weather is hot. E10 currently receives an RVP waiver, which keeps the fuel in compliance with RVP requirements year-round. However, E15 is not given the same waiver, so it can't be sold in the summer.
The EPA regulates RVP for gasoline and gasoline-ethanol blended from June 1 to Sept. 15, restricting the retail sale of ethanol blends above E10.
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Growth Energy said in a news release this week there is "broad bipartisan support" for the legislation because without it "current restrictions force many convenience stores to switch to less environmentally-friendly fuel options."
Also this week, a number of biofuels groups filed comments with the EPA in response to President Donald Trump's executive order aimed at regulatory reform, asking the agency to extend the RVP waiver to E15.
In comments to the EPA, the Renewable Fuels Association said the RVP waiver is the group's top priority this year. (http://bit.ly/…)
"In recent years, our industry has invested billions of dollars in capacity expansions that would allow further increases in ethanol production and use," the RFA said.
"However, a number of burdensome EPA regulations are stifling growth in ethanol production and demand, inhibiting job creation, imposing unnecessary costs on both industry and consumers, and preventing renewable fuels from reaching their full potential."
RFA President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Dinneen said in a statement this week the EPA could make a number of changes to provide more consumer access to biofuels.
"Securing equal RVP treatment for all ethanol blends is our top priority this year," he said.
"Simply put, consumers are being denied access to a lower-cost, higher octane fuel simply because of antiquated EPA regulations that offer absolutely no environmental benefit."
In addition, the RFA made a number of recommendations to help the ethanol industry expand markets.
That includes reforming the petition process for high-octane mid-level blends such as E25 or E30, as well as eliminating "unreasonable criteria" for approval, and "leveling the playing field" for credit generation for all alternative-fuel vehicles including flexible-fuel vehicles in the 2017-2025 fuel economy and light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas program.
The group said EPA could reduce its own workload by "eliminating a costly administrative burden by revising the agency's outdated lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis of corn ethanol."
In addition, the RFA said the agency needs to eliminate "unnecessary regulatory barriers" to cellulosic ethanol production from corn kernel fiber.
An Urban Air Initiative-led coalition also filed comments with the EPA this week.
That coalition includes the Clean Fuels Development Coalition; 25x'25 Alliance; Glacial Lakes Energy, LLC; Siouxland Ethanol, LLC; ICM, Inc.; Nebraska Ethanol Board; Nebraska Ethanol Industry Coalition; South Dakota Farmers Union; North Dakota Farmers Union; Minnesota Farmers Union; Montana Farmers Union and the Wisconsin Farmers Union.
The coalition asked the EPA to change the RVP waiver for E15, as well as a number of other suggestions. Those include changing the fuel economy formula, rules that cap ethanol use in existing vehicles, and certification fuel rules that prevent auto manufacturers from building "more efficient" vehicles.
"These EPA regulatory barriers have senselessly limited competition in the market for transportation fuels, killing American jobs and depriving drivers of more economical and healthier alternatives to regular gasoline," said UAI President Dave Vander Griend.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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