After three years of unprecedented fuel testing and regulatory scrutiny, the Obama administration has given its final approval for the sale of E15 ethanol blends under the waiver conditions set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

At an announcement by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a strong advocate for American biofuels, the administration stated that all regulatory hurdles to E15 had been addressed by the ethanol industry.  Specifically, EPA has notified the RFA that its E15 Retail Advisory addresses the agency’s concerns with residual fuel left in gas pumps with just a single hose.  The advisory is now incorporated into the RFA’s E15 Retailer Handbook. The E15 Retailer Handbook is referenced by RFA’s EPA-approved misfueling mitigation plan– a strategy required by EPA to ensure E15 is being appropriately and legally offered to consumers. To help with compliance, the RFA is also offering the approved and required E15 pump labels free of charge to retailers. 

"In the eyes of the federal government, E15 is a legal fuel for sale to cars, pickups, and SUVs made since 2001,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “E15 has undergone the most vigorous testing and regulatory process of any fuel approved by the federal government.  With all i’s dotted and t’s crossed as far as EPA is concerned, our undivided focus will turn to addressing state regulatory issues, identifying retailers wishing to offer E15, and paving the way to greater use of domestically produced ethanol.”

Fuel providers and retailers wishing to offer E15 must first register with EPA.  In so doing, these companies must state their plans to adhere to the RFA’s EPA-approved misfueling mitigation plan.  A copy of that plan and the E15 Retailer Handbook can be found at www.EthanolRFA.org.

In cooperation with Growth Energy, the RFA has also initiated a nationwide fuel survey program as required by EPA to ensure stations offering E15 are adhering to misfueling mitigation requirements, such as proper labeling, ethanol content, and vapor pressure.

“We are committed to ensuring a safe and smooth introduction of E15 for consumers and retailers alike,” said Dinneen. “Change often breeds confusion and as stations begin to offer E15, the RFA will proactively work with those retailers to educate consumers on the appropriate use of E15 and the benefits of greater domestic ethanol use.  We believe it is possible that gallons of E15 could be sold under the waiver conditions before the end of the summer."

Hurdles to the widespread adoption of E15 remain, including pending litigation, threats of congressional intervention to prevent the sale of E15, and state regulatory issues.  Also limiting the fast adoption of E15, particularly in summer months, is the requirement that E15 meet stricter federal evaporative emissions standards, known as Reid Vapor Pressure or RVP.  Currently, most summer gasoline formulations would likely exceed federal limits when blended with 15% ethanol.  An RVP waiver for 10% ethanol blends is in place allowing for year round sale.  Such a waiver should be extended to E15 as well given that RVP differences are indistinguishable between and 10% and 15% ethanol blends.

“It is no secret that some in the petroleum industry and other anti-biofuel voices will mount an all assault to prevent E15 from entering the market,” said Dinneen. “But, America’s ethanol industry is fully committed to working with stakeholders across the supply chain, and with consumers directly to offer American drivers with the choices at the pump – lower cost choices at that – for which they overwhelmingly desire.”

Download a copy of the RFA misfueling mitigation plan here.

Download a copy of the RFA’s E15 Retailer Handbook here.