Senators Introduce Bill to Roll Back Approval of E15

Legislation seeks to limit ethanol blend to 10%

Roger Wicker

WASHINGTON -- U.S. senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and David Vitter (R-La.) have introduced legislation to block an increase in the amount of ethanol that can be blended with gasoline. The bill would overturn U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waivers that allows gasoline containing 15% ethanol (E15) to be used for many passenger cars and light trucks.

The Wicker-Vitter bill would prohibit the EPA administrator from granting any waiver for a blend above 10% ethanol and would repeal the previous waivers.

The higher blend of ethanol has been found to cause engine damage, reduce fuel efficiency and contribute to higher corn prices and rising food costs for American consumers, according to the senators.

"EPA's flawed waivers allowing E15 amount to government bureaucrats issuing short-sighted regulations that negatively impact families and businesses across the country," said Wicker, a member of the Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee. "The concerns surrounding E15 that existed prior to the waivers have increased instead of diminishing."

Vitter added, "Whether you drive a car, truck, boat or tractor, misfueling with E15 could result in engine failure, increased emissions and the voiding of warranty coverage. It is irresponsible for EPA to allow E15 without sufficient testing and technical analysis. I support an all-inclusive energy strategy, but experimenting before understanding the consequences and potential cost of using E15 is unfair to consumers."

EPA issued two waivers to permit the use of E15. The first, in 2010, was for use in cars and light trucks model-year 2007 or later. The second, in 2011, allowed E15 to be used in vehicles model-year 2001 to 2006.

In November 2012, AAA urged the Obama administration to halt the sale of E15 because of possible engine damage. AAA said it found in a survey a strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage.

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) applauded the senators' bill.

"The fact that EPA would allow a fuel in the marketplace that it knows will threaten existing engines and refueling infrastructure is inconceivable and is a glaring example of EPA's willingness to place politics ahead of science," said AFPM president Charles T. Drevna.

Numerous studies show that gasoline blends containing more than 10% ethanol can cause engine damage in millions of vehicles on the road today and in smaller engines including chainsaws, lawnmowers, boats and snowmobiles, the group said. As a result, vehicle manufacturers have warned that the use of E15 will void warranties, leaving consumers vulnerable to expensive repair bills.

"EPA chose to prematurely issue a series of fuel waivers to allow E15 to be used in vehicles manufactured after 2001, despite compelling evidence that the fuel will be costly and potentially dangerous for consumers," said Drevna.

A court dismissed several industry challenges to EPA's E15 waiver decision on procedural grounds. AFPM is considering appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision, the group said, did not reach the merits of the case; however, the dissenting opinion indicated that EPA overstepped its legal authority.