EPA proposes increase in ethanol levels in fuel

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed increasing the amount of ethanol required in the overall fuel supply.
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The Environmental Protection Agency proposed increasing the amount of ethanol required in the overall fuel supply, although it lowered the amounts required by the Clean Air Act, angering both critics and supporters of ethanol.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it would inject $100 million in funding to get more ethanol at the gas pump.

“EPA is proposing volumes which, while below the volumes originally set by Congress, would increase renewable fuel use in the U.S. above historical levels and provide for steady growth over time,” the EPA said in its proposal on Friday.

The public comment period regarding the elevated blends lasts until July 27.

In November of 2013 the EPA first proposed to scale back the 2014 mandate to blend corn ethanol and more advanced biofuels into gasoline. However, the EPA subsequently withdrew that 2014 proposal after being met with fierce opposition by the biofuels industry.

Immediately following Friday’s announcement, Smarter Fuel Future held a press conference call with members that included BoatUS, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Environmental Working Group, the American Motorcycle Association and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“The announcement today does nothing to alleviate concerns about misfueling,” NMMA legal and regulatory affairs director Nicole Vasilaros said, adding that is a “big concern for marine products” since it is federally prohibited for boats to use fuel that is more than 10 percent ethanol.

“As the blend wall creeps up, we’re concerned about the continued availability of E10, which we are required to use, and E0,” which has seen widespread increasing use in the marine industry, Vasilaros said.

The blend wall is the term used for the maximum amount of ethanol in fuel that can be tolerated by all engines — which is E10, or 10 percent ethanol.

Because the RFS has the amount of ethanol flatly increasing — despite a large, unanticipated drop in fuel demand — increasing the amount of ethanol blended into the supply will cause blends to increase to E15 and higher, critics say.

The EPA announced the total amount of renewable fuel blending was 15.93 billion gallons in 2014, 16.30 billion gallons in 2015 and 17.40 billion gallons in 2016 — more than 4 billion gallons a year lower than the amount Congress called for in the 2007 legislation. The statutory requirement for 2016 is 22.25 billion gallons.

"We’re balancing two dynamics: Congress' clear intent to increase renewable fuel over time to address climate change and increase energy security, and the real-world circumstances that have slowed progress toward these goals," Janet McCabe, the EPA's air pollution regulator, told reporters Friday, according to The Hill.

Emily Cassidy, of the Environmental Working Group, said Friday that her group opposes ethanol because it increases carbon emissions.

“The agency’s hands are tied,” Cassidy said. “Congress needs to act to reform this broken policy.”

“It’s our role to articulate to lawmakers the impact to consumers,” said David Kennedy, of BoatUS. “And one of the messages that we continue to articulate to boaters is that they need to be very careful about E15. If we’ve got more blender pumps out there, it’s more likely” they will get traces of E15 through shared hoses or inadvertently fill tanks with the fuel.

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