Ethanol standards draw mixed reaction


October 13th, 2010

A federal decision allowing more ethanol in gasoline is drawing mixed reaction in Nebraska.  The Environmental Protection Agency announced Oct. 13 it is increasing the amount of ethanol allowed in a gallon of gasoline from 10 % to 15 %. But for now, the higher levels will be allowed for use only in vehicles from the 2007 model year onwards. EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy said even with that limitation, the change could significantly increase the use of ethanol.

EPA raises ethanol standards to 15%

“In 2011, there will be more than 65 million model year 2007 and later cars and light trucks in use that can now utilize E-15,” she said. “That represents more than one-third of the gasoline consumption. This will increase rapidly as the fleet turns over to more than 100 million vehicles and 50 percent of fuel consumption by 2014.”

McCarthy said EPA will decide on allowing the fuel in 2001 to 2006 model year vehicles after testing is completed in November. Those tests are to determine if older vehicles using the higher percentage of ethanol would still meet emissions standards and not suffer engine damage. Nebraska Ethanol Board Administrator Todd Sneller said delay permission for older vehicles to use so-called E-15 could confuse retailers and consumers:

“I think the process ahead of us is going to be cumbersome in terms of introducing the fuel into the marketplace,” he said. “Many in the ethanol community have offered the idea that this is not a good idea to go about this with a segmented marketplace in the way that’s being proposed at this point. “From a practical standpoint,” he said, “I don’t think we’re going to see much of an impact in terms of new demand.”

Sneller said Nebraska ethanol plants currently account for about two billion of the nation’s 12 billion gallons of annual ethanol production. He said if national demand increases by four billion gallons, that would be significant. But he said he’d like to see E-15 cleared for use in all vehicles, and more vehicles equipped to use higher blends. U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson welcomed the EPA announcement as a long overdue first step. But U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns accused the EPA of footdragging, and called the Obama administration’s performance exasperating.

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