December 1 is the deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a decision on the waiver to allow up to 15 percent ethanol in regular gasoline and the industry is anxiously awaiting a positive outcome.
The waiver request was submitted by Growth Energy and an alliance of ethanol producer organizations and companies in early March and by law EPA must take action on it by December 1 and the word from EPA officials last week was that they are committed to making an announcement by the deadline. Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis says they are optimistic. “We think we made the case,” Buis said. “The data we submitted proves there is no impact on engine performance or durability that would prevent the EPA from deciding in favor of E15.”
Matt Hartwig with the Renewable Fuels Association says the decision could go in several directions, three of which his group suggested in comments to the agency. “Obviously one is, yes – E15 is a safe and effective fuel. That’s the one we believe should be their decision,” said Hartwig. “Another option is the E12 pathway, taking that intermediate step while they continue to work on the full E15 waiver.”
He says a third option might be a partial waiver, “Where they say you can use up to E15 blends for on-road vehicle engines, but would put off a complete decision on the waiver with small engines or marine engines until they were comfortable with the data.”
The fate of the ethanol industry hinges on the EPA’s decision, since the so-called “blend wall” has already been reached and without the waiver there will be no way to utilize the production of ethanol required under the Renewable Fuel Standard mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. However, if the EPA denies the waiver, the industry may consider other regulatory or legislative options to overcome the blend wall issue.