Most of the gasoline sold at retail stations throughout the United States contains 10 percent ethanol by volume. This gasoline blend, often referred to as E10, has been sold commercially in the U.S. for more than 20 years. E10 is compatible with virtually all gasoline-powered vehicles and gasoline-powered equipment such as snowmobiles, lawnmowers, leaf blowers and chain saws. The amount of E10 sold at retail stations has grown as refiners comply with the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.
Until recently, the gasoline sold at retail stations in the United States could legally contain no more than 10 percent ethanol. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued decisions in November 2010 and January 2011 granting conditional approval for the use of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, or E15, for some motor vehicles.
E15 is now approved for use in cars and light trucks model years 2001 and newer. However, refiners are not required to manufacture E15 gasoline and retailers are not required to sell it under the EPA decisions.
These are called “partial waivers” because they permit the use of E15 for some vehicles and prohibit E15 for older vehicles and all small engines.
The E15 partial waivers have been controversial and were opposed by many groups, including refiners, automakers, small equipment and boat manufacturers, boat owners, motorcycle groups, food groups and the environmental community. Several organizations, including AFPM, have filed legal challenges regarding EPA’s partial waiver decisions for E15.
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA does not have the authority to grant such a partial waiver. The agency cannot approve E15 for use in only some – but not all – engines. In addition, by basing its decision to raise the legal limit from 10 to 15 percent ethanol on new data that had not been reviewed by the public, EPA did not follow proper regulatory procedure in granting the partial waiver.
E15 has not been demonstrated to be compatible with all gasoline-powered engines. By acting without adequate scientific evidence to approve the use of E15, EPA has created safety and liability concerns regarding the operation of the vehicles and outdoor power equipment used by hundreds of millions of Americans every day.
Defending its actions while recognizing the real-life consequence, EPA stated that they would devise a program that would prevent misfueling of E15 with incompatible engines. However, perhaps the strongest indictment of EPA’s certification of E15 for any engine type came from the automakers in a response to a question from Congress in 2011. Without exception, the auto manufacturers responded that use of E15, even in their newest vehicles, would damage engines, void warranties and reduce fuel efficiencies.
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