Ag Policy Blog

Battle Rages on E15

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of E15 in vehicles 2001 and newer the ultimate fate of the fuel that is struggling to gain market traction could be determined by an ongoing battle in Washington.

On Tuesday the U.S. Senate's environment subcommittee of the committee on science, space and technology held a hearing designed to look at mid-level ethanol blends such as E15.

Leading up to the hearing ethanol industry groups cried foul noting that not a single ethanol industry representative was called to testify.

The hearing included testimony from Robert L. Darbelnet, president and chief executive officer of the American Automobile Association, Wayne Allard, vice president of government relations for the American Motorcyclist Association, and Mike Leister, member of the board of directors for the Coordinating Research Council.

Darbelnet told the committee in his written testimony that AAA supports the use of ethanol but is uncomfortable with the notion that so few auto manufacturers stand by their engine warranties if E15 is used.

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"We believe that consumer protection and education, supported by clear and thoughtful research, is not just a priority, it is an obligation," he said.

"The introduction of E15 gasoline to consumers has failed to meet this obligation. In November of last year -- several months after E15 was first sold to motorists -- a AAA survey found that 95% of consumers had never heard of the fuel. Additionally, despite the Environmental Protection Agency waiver allowing the use of E15 gasoline in model year 2001 and newer vehicles, we learned that far fewer vehicles -- a scant 5% -- were actually approved for use under warranty by their manufacturer."

There is movement in Congress to ban the use of E15. In the Senate Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., introduced a bill that would prohibit the EPA from allowing the commercial use of ethanol blends above E10. Senate Bill 344 has been referred to the Senate committee on environment and public works.

Chuck Beck, public affairs director for the American Coalition for Ethanol, said so far a companion bill has not been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, and that President Barack Obama has been a strong ethanol supporter and unlikely to sign legislation banning E15.

In a letter,…, sent to the committee, Renewable Fuels Association President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Dinneen pointed to oil-industry influence for a lack of 'balance' at the hearing.

"It both saddens and angers me that in this day and age such a lopsided, stacked hearing could actually happen," he writes.

"It is shameful to see how tight of a grip oil companies have on Congress. Big oil is running scared because their profit-gouging monopoly is threatened by Americans' desire for fuel choice and savings. Ethanol and E15 are gaining momentum. Science and consumer demand are on our side. The facts and our track record will speak louder than any scare tactic."

During the hearing the CRC's Mike Leister presented the results of the CRC's study on the effects of E15 blends on vehicles. That study found that fuel systems in vehicles tested were adversely affected by the ethanol blend.

The ethanol industry has countered in recent weeks that the CRC study was flawed on numerous fronts, including that the vehicles tested already had documented problems with their fuel systems.

"Such a non-representative sample should raise a red flag in the science and technology community, yet CRC and the oil industry have been practically unchallenged in their characterization of CRC Project CM-136-09-1 as a test that is representative of the vehicle fleet in general," ACE Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty wrote in a letter to the committee,….

"What Congress needs to investigate is why the oil companies are misleading it into eliminating their only real competition, and why this contrived CRC research is not being more fully analyzed."

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