Bill Aims to Expand E15 Availability

Proposed waiver could open door to year-round E15 use

WASHINGTON -- Fuel retailers selling E15 may be able to offer it year-round if new legislation wins approval.

While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved E15, the 15% ethanol blend, for use in 2001 and newer vehicles, only flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) can legally use it in the summer in most markets. That’s because the EPA regulates fuels’ Reid vapor pressure (RVP), which measures their evaporation rate, to control ozone and smog in the summer months. Congress approved an RVP waiver for E10, the 10% ethanol blend, which allows it to be sold year-round. The EPA, however, has not provided one for E15, even though ethanol advocates point to its lower volatility and ability to decrease emissions.

The Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act (S. 517, H.R.1311) would amend the Clean Air Act to extend the RVP volatility waiver to E15 so that retailers could offer the ethanol blend without any restrictions from June 1 to Sept. 15. Sponsors include Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), as well as Reps. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) in the House.

“Consumers appreciate having choices, whether it’s at the grocery store or the fuel pump,” said Grassley. “Those of us who live in biofuels-producing states understand the appeal of cleaner, domestic, renewable fuels. The EPA should be consistent in the way it treats different fuel blends as a matter of fairness and to give consumers more options for fueling their vehicles. The EPA has never acted on its authority to grant a Reid vapor pressure waiver for E15. This bill proposes a legislative fix to fill the void.”

Emily Skor, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based ethanol industry group Growth Energy, praised the bill.

“The introduction of the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act is the first step toward eradicating an unnecessary EPA restriction that limits consumer choice at the pump during the peak time of the year when Americans are on the road,” Skor said. “We commend the sponsors of this bill for their efforts to provide consumer choice at the pump and look forward to working with them to get this important legislation enacted.”

The bill debuts the same week as reports that the Trump administration may be considering a plan that shifts the point of obligation to meet requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard downstream. Despite widespread opposition from fueling industry and biofuel groups for moving the point of obligation, the plan reportedly won the backing of the Renewable Fuels Association, because the White House’s support for an E15 waiver could be included in the deal.

About 650 fueling sites in 28 states are currently selling E15, according to Growth Energy. Large chains that offer the fuel include RaceTrac, Thorntons, Murphy USA, Sheetz and Kum & Go.

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