EPA hearing on ethanol set for Thursday

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes

The Environmental Protection Agency is holding a hearing Thursday to receive testimony on a proposal that would lower the required amount of ethanol in the fuel supply for the first time ever.

The required amount is now 13 billion gallons, which is the total saturation at E10, or fuel with 10 percent ethanol, which is standard at pumps today, John McKnight, environmental and safety compliance director for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, told Trade Only Today.

Raising the amount of ethanol required in the fuel supply for next year could force fuel to go up to E15, or 15 percent ethanol, and even higher beyond that. If refineries don’t increase the amount of ethanol in the supply, the price of gas will rise, McKnight says.

The Renewable Fuel Standard — the law passed by Congress in 2007 — requires the amount of biofuels used in the fuel supply to numerically increase each year despite the fact that U.S. fuel consumption is actually dropping. The target was to hit 36 billion gallons of ethanol and biofuels by 2022.

The NMMA and food, petroleum and environmental groups have warned that the goal is unrealistic, as well as dangerous for engines, and could cause safety problems down the road.

The EPA, though often scapegoated as having made the requirement, is actually required by Congress to adhere to the Renewable Fuel Standard, McKnight says.

But the agency was able to use waivers to temporarily postpone the elevation set for next year. One waiver was because there is an inadequate corn supply due to recent ongoing droughts, and the other is that there are not enough fueling stations that can offer E15, or gasoline with 15 percent ethanol. Additionally, fueling stations often don’t want to carry the higher-ethanol blend because of studies showing it can cause damage to engines. “There’s not a big market demand for it,” McKnight said.

When Congress passed the law in 2007, the United States was in two wars in the Middle East, McKnight pointed out. Additionally, the country had never had a drop in fuel consumption since the industrial era. So the law was written under the assumption that Americans would continue to drive bigger cars farther and consume more. But after the Great Recession and strides in technology, Americans have consumed less gas.

To help encourage the adaptation to biofuels, the law also says refineries that don’t meet the requirement have to purchase credits.

“They have to buy [Renewable Identification Numbers], which have a cost,” McKnight said. “It’s basically a tax. Some of the oil companies have just said, ‘We’ll just pay the fine and pass it on to the consumer.’ That’s where the Renewable Fuel Standard needs to be fixed.”

The NMMA’s McKnight will be among the groups — which include those concerned about world hunger,  environmental groups and the petroleum industry — who will testify in support of the waiver at the EPA hearing on Thursday.

“The corn people will be out, and the renewable fuel people, so we need to get people from the industry side, too. I’ll represent marine manufacturers,” McKnight said. “There will be food groups, the ones who are concerned about the cost of food going up, and environmental groups that are against it for many reasons. The only groups that are really supporting the expansion of the RFS are the groups making money on it, like Monsanto and [Archer Daniels Midland Co.].”

“We’ve kind of hit the wall with corn ethanol. Consumers don’t want it. The EPA has recognized that,” McKnight said. “They’re lowering the requirement significantly by a billion gallons, but it’s still very broken legislation that Congress needs to go back and fix. The EPA has given relief here for the next year, but truly, if they don’t go back and fix this thing, and we still will need to meet this 36 billion-gallon requirement by 2022, the EPA’s hands are tied. This will be difficult in an election year.”

Thursday’s hearing will be held at 9 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va.

Once the proposal is in the Federal Register, there will be a 60-day period for public comment.


10 comments on “EPA hearing on ethanol set for Thursday

  1. Darrell Smith

    The only thing broken in ethanol is your comments. You are an oil lover – a pollution lover; and you have not fully understood the essence of the biofuel program – biofuels equal jobs

  2. Charlie Peters

    A random California Smog Check “secret shopper” audit, GMO ethanol waiver & elimination of duel fuel CAFÉ credit can cut mobil fleet ozone & pm over 50% in 2014.

    Will California State Senate confirm a Department of Consumer Affairs / Bureau of Automotive Repair (DCA/BAR) Chief who will make sure (Partial) Zero Emissions Vehicles (PZEV) that fail Smog Check get fixed. Smog Check secret shopper audits would cut California’s smog by 1500 tons per day, this will reduce the cost impact to Californians by $billions$.

  3. Richard Oney

    We should stop growing our fuel! We now are oil independent and no longer need OPEC we now produce more oil than Saudia Arabia ! Right here in our own country why do we need to put a strain on our water supply and add additional cost to food and livestock feed?

  4. Marilyn DeMartini

    John McKnight is dead-on in his comments. He is not an oil lover, he is a realist. Take off your rose colored glasses and see that the ethanol take over is a lobbying move for corn and sugar. It eats engines, it is NOT economical and it does nothing to save the environment. Listen to those who are educated and informed and hopefully they can reach some reasonable Congressmen–IF that entity exists!

  5. Gary C

    As a marine mechanic I see the damaging effects of ethanol daily.
    To believe ethanol is the silver winged angel that will replenish the ozone layer is folly.
    The amount of scrap I have personally added to our landfills created strictly by ethanol and the thousands of gallons of waste fuel I have pumped out of fuel tanks also due to the addition of ethanol to our fuel supplies is inexcusable.
    Oil lover? Pollution lover? Grow up.
    I want to preserve our ecology as much as any REASONABLE human being.
    Wasting water and millions of gallons of fuel and electricity for an unequal amount of ethanol isn’t working.
    Ethanol implementation is creating jobs by lowering a viable food crop. That makes sense.

  6. Lawrence Warner

    Jobs for a few, destruction of long preserved grasslands,a loss of 10+% in fuel economy,increased consumer costs for food and fuel. Glad the Govt finally decided to consider it.
    And to think we elect those buffoons. Amazing but about time.

  7. Rick C

    Producing and getting each gallon of ethanol to the consumer requires more than a gallon of standard petroleum based fuel. Couple that with the fact that ethanol provides no substantial lubrication to the combustion chamber, thus burning out the cylinders, makes ethanol use a lose-lose situation.

  8. Nate

    I find the whole marine thing hilarious. In Minnesota, we have had ethanol in our fuel since the 70’s. I have three motors myself and have always ran 87 octane, unleaded gas. I have never had any issues with any of the motors.

    What are these people doing? Putting E85 in their tanks? Or diesel?

    I am very confused.

  9. Jeff


    Consider yourself lucky if you haven’t had issues with ethanol-added fuel. In your comment, I’m not certain you are aware that 87 octance unleaded fuel may or may not have had ethanol added to it. Unleaded gas and ethanol-added gas are not the same thing. Also, if you use ethanol-added gas right away after filling your tank, it doesn’t cause many issues. The problem stems from allowing this crappy fuel to sit around and absorb water.

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