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API comment on EPA’s E15 decision

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

On 21st January 2011, the American Petroleum Institute (API) called the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to further extend an increase in the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline ‘a rush to judgment’ and warned about possible performance problems that my put consumers at risk.

‘An interim report by the auto and oil industries released just this week has revealed potential performance problems that require further testing from E15 can be deemed safe to use in vehicles. EPA is choosing to ignore the potential red flags in its headlong rush to extend a premature waiver,’ said API’s Director of Downstream Operations, Bob Greco.

EPA expected a Clean Air Act waiver to increase the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline from 10% (E10) to 15% (E15) for 2001 and newer model year vehicles. The agency had previously authorised the use of E15 in 2007 and newer model year vehicles. This waiver is being issued before the completion of tests being conducted by the auto and oil industries to determine whether higher levels of ethanol in gasoline are safe to use. Furthermore, use of E15 ins some small gasoline powered equipment has the potential to create serious safety concerns.

‘Today’s decision is even shakier than the original decision because comprehensive vehicle testing of E15 by automakers and the oil industry is not yet complete,’ Greco said. ‘Furthermore, EPA bypassed formal notice and comment procedures in making this decision. They simply places DOE’s test data in the docket and made their decision less than a month later without reopening the comment period. EPA is putting more American consumers at risk by approving the use of E15 without knowing the consequences it could have.’

Greco said that vehicle and service station equipment testing has revealed potential safety and performance problems that require further testing before E15 can be deemed safe. For example, he noted, recent Department of Energy infrastructure testing of new and used retail gas station equipment resulted in more than half of the equipment failing, showing that there are serious issues with using any equipment not specifically certified for E15.

Greco said that the US oil and natural gas industry is the biggest consumer of ethanol. ‘API remains committed to manufacturing and selling fuels that will perform reliably in consumer’s vehicles. However, rushing to allow more ethanol before we know it is safe could be disastrous for consumers and could jeopardise the future of renewable fuels. With today’s action, EPA made a bad decision even worse,’ he warned.

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