WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2016 - On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed rule that would make some changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard and add regulatory certainty for higher blends of ethanol.
EPA says the changes in the proposed rule would define fuels containing 16 to 83 percent ethanol as ethanol flex fuel (EFF) and no longer treat gasoline blended with 16 to 50 percent ethanol as gasoline. This, the agency says, would add environmentally protective fuel quality specifications for EFF that are consistent with those already in place for gasoline. Regulatory certainty could be provided to retailers seeking to sell higher ethanol blends such as E30 at blender pumps.
Renewable fuel trade associations are still reviewing the proposal, but offered cautious statements Monday afternoon. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor expressed skepticism about what the proposed rule might mean for the industry’s efforts to expand the use of E15.
“If this proposed rule is finalized, this regulation would leave E15 as the only ethanol-blended fuel that does not have Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) relief,” Skor said in a statement. RVP is the measure of a fuel’s volatility and EPA regulates it to prevent increased ozone or smog from vehicle emissions. “It is imperative that E15 be given the same volatility treatment as regular E10 gasoline. The current RVP waiver for E10 was granted in 1990, and it is time we update our fuel regulations to match the market realities of the 21st century.”
Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen concurred, saying RFA wants to make sure any changes do not hamper sales of higher blends because of an increased emphasis on the blends in the proposed rule.
“Our goal is to ensure the final regulations do not unreasonably impair the ability of blenders and retailers to offer ethanol flex fuels like E85 to consumers,” Dinneen said. “Ethanol flex fuels are the lowest-cost, lowest-carbon, and highest octane liquid fuels on the market, and it is imperative that these EPA regulations help – not hinder – broader commercial introduction of these fuels.”
The ethanol industry is struggling to achieve large-scale sales of gasoline blended with more than 10 percent ethanol, the most popular fuel blend in the country. Unless sales of higher blends pick up, the need for increased ethanol called for in the RFS may diminish due to changes in gasoline demand.
Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, it will be open for public comment for 60 days.
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