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Ethanol fuel: EPA addresses ‘E10 blend wall’

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposal for public comment on the levels of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel fuels required by Congress under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that created the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The EPA acknowledges that the federal law sets unrealistic mandates on the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline. The RFS requires an increasing amount of biofuel be blended into gasoline each year, from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

However, nearly all gasoline sold in the United States contains up to 10% ethanol (E10) and there is widespread opposition to increasing that amount to 15% (E15). For the first time since the RFS became law in 2009, the EPA is lowering the targeted amount of ethanol blended in gasoline.

The EPA says that today less fuel in the U.S. is being consumed than was expected when the RFS was passed in 2007, due to advances in vehicle fuel economy combined with the fact that cars are being driven less. EPA says the United States has hit the “E10 blend wall.”

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) has joined with a number of other organizations representing a variety of industries in asking Congress to repeal or scale-back the RFS biofuel mandates and to ban the sale of E15. While the EPA has approved E15 for use in ’01 and newer vehicles, the agency made it illegal to use in older vehicles for fear of equipment damage.

However, the EPA only requires a gas pump warning label for unsuspecting consumers. Ethanol can cause metal corrosion and dissolve certain plastics and rubbers, especially in older cars that were not constructed with ethanol-resistant materials.

Congress has held a number of hearings on the RFS and E15 and is expected to consider legislation to reduce ethanol mandates in 2014.

For more on the issue see:

Is the EPA off base with its ethanol fuel mandate?

Trending at the pump: ethanol gas and auto repairs


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