While ethanol producers have been lobbying to increase the blend of that alcohol in standard gasoline to 15%, many in the auto industry have opposed that increase, saying that it could damage cars. Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has, for the first time, proposed reducing the ethanol requirement in the nation’s fuel supply. Actually, what they are proposing is a smaller increase in the overall use of ethanol, which means that the national standard may not be raised to E15.
Enough ethanol is being produced to meet the EPA’s current requirements. Most of that is used to make E10, a 10% ethanol / 90% gasoline mix, and E85, which is 85% ethanol. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the Renewable Fuels Standard mandate increasing the amount of ethanol used in the national fuel supply, but the EPA is facing what has been called the “blend wall”. If any more alcohol is mixed into regular gas it will push the overall blend above 10%, which could create problems with the fuel systems of cars.
The requirements project a use of 15-15.52 billion gallons of ethanol and the EPA is recommending that refiners and blenders use a total of 15.21 billion gallons, within the lower range of the projections.
Says the EPA:
[The] EPA is proposing to adjust the applicable volumes of advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel to address projected availability of qualifying renewable fuels and limitations in the volume of ethanol that can be consumed in gasoline given practical constraints on the supply of higher ethanol blends to the vehicles that can use them and other limits on ethanol blend levels in gasoline.
The move was praised by the oil industry and criticized by ethanol makers and farmers.
Biofuel supporters were even more disappointed than those backing corn ethanol, with the EPA proposing to significantly reduce the cellulosic biofuel standard. Producers haven’t been able to make anywhere near the original standards.
The EPA said, “Based on an assessment of the available volumes of cellulosic biofuels, EPA is proposing to set the cellulosic biofuel standard at 17 million gallons, significantly lower than CAA target of 1.75 billion gallons (PDF).”
These are proposed changes in the rules. There will be a period for public comment followed by hearings before any of the proposals are given the force of law.