Supreme Court Won't Block E15

Rejects effort to prevent sale of ethanol blend groups say could damage some vehicles

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an effort by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and others to prevent the sale of E15--the gasoline blend containing 15% ethanol--from expanding nationwide, said the Associated Press.

Refiners, food producers, restaurants and some environmental groups have fought governments efforts to require increasing amounts of ethanol in gasoline blends the next few years.

The industry has argued that potential damage to motorcycles and aging cars along with the upward pricing influence it will put on food impose an unnecessary economic burden on consumers.

"The ever-increasing ethanol mandate has become unsustainable, causing a looming crisis for gasoline consumers," said Bob Greco, a senior official with API. "We're at the point where refiners are being pressured to put unsafe levels of ethanol in gasoline, which could damage vehicles, harm consumers and wreak havoc on our economy."

However, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected the effort. The justices left in place a federal appeals court ruling that dismissed challenges by the API and trade associations representing food producers, restaurants and others.

The court's decision confirms that the gasoline blend can be sold at gas stations nationwide, giving individual businesses and consumers the choice of whether to use it. Currently, most gasoline blends sold continue about 10% ethanol. The E15 blend is available is only sold in about 20 stations in Midwest states and is unlikely to spread from coast to coast anytime soon.

Scott Zaremba, who owns a chain of gas stations in Kansas, scoffs at claims that E15 would damage older cars. "In the real world I've had zero problems" with engine breakdowns, said Zaremba, whose station in Lawrence, Kansas, was the first in the nation to offer E15 last year.

But Zaremba said he had to stop selling the fuel this spring after his gasoline supplier, Phillips 66, told him he could no longer sell the E15 fuel from his regular black fuel hoses. The company said the aim was to distinguish E15 from other gasoline with less ethanol, but Zaremba said the real goal was to discourage use of E15. New pumps cost more than $100,000.

For now, E15 remains a regional anomaly, sold in fewer than two dozen gas stations in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Tom Buis, CEO of ethanol industry group Growth Energy, hailed the court's decision as a victory for consumers. "Now that the final word has been issued, I hope that oil companies will begin to work with biofuel producers to help bring new blends into the marketplace that allow for consumer choice and savings," Buis said.

That looks doubtful, said AP.