SEMA eNews Vol. 15, No. 6, February 9, 2012

U.S. House Committee Wants EPA to Reevaluate Safety of E15 Gasoline

The U.S. House Science Committee approved a SEMA-supported bill that directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a scientific assessment on how gasoline blended with 15% to 20% ethanol (E15 and E20) may impact gasoline-powered engines, vehicles and related equipment. The analysis would consider a variety of issues, including tailpipe and evaporative emissions, impact on OBD systems, materials compatibility and fuel efficiency. The House bill would prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from introducing E15 into the marketplace until the report has been submitted to the House Science Committee. The National Academy of Sciences would have 18 months to conduct its analysis. 

SEMA opposes E15 based on scientific evidence that it causes corrosion with incompatible parts. Ethanol increases water formation, which can then create formic acid and corrode metals, plastics and rubber. In 2009, the ethanol industry asked the EPA for a waiver to sell E15. In November 2010, the EPA approved a partial waiver to allow use in 2007 and newer vehicles. The waiver was expanded in January 2011 to include 2001 and newer vehicles. 

Nevertheless, the EPA agreed with SEMA’s concerns and made it “illegal to fuel pre-2001 vehicles” with E15. Last summer, the EPA issued a rule requiring all gas stations to place an orange and black label on fuel pumps dispensing E15. The label will warn consumers not to use the fuel in vehicles older than model year 2001 since it could cause damage. Still, it is still illegal to sell E15. The ethanol industry must first “register” the fuel with the EPA by demonstrating that the fuel will not damage storage tanks, hoses and other portions of the distribution system. 

Several lawsuits have also been filed to overturn the EPA’s decision to allow the sale of E15. It may take months or years to resolve the suits and E15 sales may be blocked until the suits are decided. 

For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein at stuartg@sema.org

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