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Automakers Push for More Testing Before Government Allows Higher Ethanol Blends

April 07, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) is lobbying for the Obama administration to wait until comprehensive test results are in before ruling on whether to permit ethanol blends above 10 percent in the marketplace. 

Last month, ethanol industry group Growth Energy and 52 ethanol producers requested a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency that would allow for ethanol blends up to 15 percent, according to the Oil Price Information Service. 

The EPA must issue a waiver for any ethanol blends higher than 10 percent to be used (not including E85). The EPA has until Dec. 1 to either grant or deny the waiver petition from the biofuel producers. 

In arguing for the waiver, Growth Energy referenced a number of recent studies that tested higher ethanol blends, including E20 testing from the state of Minnesota, a pilot study on mid-level blends by the American Coalition for Ethanol, and a preliminary report released by the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, according to a report from the Oil Price Information Service. 

However, the AAM has characterized the research as "incomplete" and insufficient to warrant a policy change in ethanol blend limits. Another lobbying group, the American Lung Assn., has also questioned the research cited by Growth Energy.

During a recent Senate subcommittee oversight hearing, American Lung Assn. representative A. Blakeman Early told senators that only two of the seven midlevel blend tests cited by Growth Energy were peer-reviewed and that the remaining five tests didn't use proper protocols. Early added that the EPA should not base its decision on "flimsy or non-existent data," Ethanol Producer Magazine reported.

Early also argued that the ethanol industry has moved its focus away from E85 because it is less profitable than the nationwide use of midlevel blends. The American Lung Assn. supports the use of E85 and supports efforts to distribute it to more areas.

During the hearing, Growth Energy maintained its position that solid research results already support its E15 waiver request.

In a statement, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said: "While additional research reaffirming what we already know is helpful, we believe that more than enough evidence exists today for the EPA to approve a blend of up to 15 percent."


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