EPA approval of E15 may be mistake, witnesses tell House panel

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, July 8 -- Federal approval of higher ethanol concentrations in gasoline without further testing could seriously damage engines instead of improving the environment, several witnesses told a subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on July 7.

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s desire to allow more ethanol to be used in conventional vehicles should not be allowed to harm investments motorists make in safe, reliable, and economical vehicles, according to Bob Greco, American Petroleum Institute downstream and industry operations director. Greco told the committee’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee: “The oil and auto industries cannot support a premature action that could put consumer satisfaction and safety at risk.”

The hearing came 2 days after Rep. F. James Sensenbrunner (R-Wis.), the full committee’s vice-chairman, released statements from 12 automakers regarding the consequences of fuel with 15% ethanol on engines, fuel economy, and warranties.

The statements, in response to a survey he sent June 2 to General Motors, Ford, and 10 other automakers, expressed reservations about allowing ethanol concentrations to rise above their current 10% limit. “Americans need a fuel that will give them more miles out of a gallon of [gasoline]—not one that will prematurely send their vehicles to the junkyard,” Sensenbrunner said on July 5.

“While the details associated with the EPA E15 decisions are complex and esoteric, their impacts are potentially massive,” said Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), the subcommittee’s chairman, as he opened the July 7 hearing. “The properties of ethanol are very different from gasoline, and they may result in problems associated with corrosion, engine failure, increased emissions, materials incompatibility, infrastructure, warranty damage, and the potential for misfueling.”

Basis of decision
But Margo T. Oge, transportation and air quality director in EPA’s air and radiation office, said EPA partially granted ethanol producers’ request for a waiver to raise ethanol levels in gasoline to 15% based on all available evidence, including US Department of Energy and other researchers’ test data.

“Based on this evidence, EPA determined that the Clean Air Act criteria were met for allowing E15 to be introduced into commerce for use in model year 2001 and newer cars, light trucks, and other passenger vehicles,” she told the subcommittee. “EPA also found that the [CAA’s] criteria were not met for older passenger vehicles and other types of vehicles and gasoline-powered equipment because there were insufficient data to allay engineering concerns that the less sophisticated engines and emission controls of these products could accommodate E15.”

EPA consequently raised the allowable ethanol limit to 15% for model year 2001 and newer cars and light trucks, but did not raise the permissible concentration in gasoline for other uses, Oge continued. To reduce the potential for misfueling with E15, the federal regulator required fuel producers who decide to introduce E15 clearly label dispensers and take other steps, she said. EPA also recently released national regulations to further reduce the risk of misfueling, Oge said.

Those steps may not do the job, other witnesses warned. “The reality is that if E15 becomes the standard gasoline in the marketplace, millions of consumers will run the risk of having their vehicles, boats, lawnmowers, and other gasoline-powered devices damaged, because they will not have the option of fueling them properly,” said Jeff Wasil, emissions certification engineer for Evinrude Marine Engines in Sturtevant, Wis.

He noted that while the National Marine Manufacturers Association and others petitioned EPA to require gasoline retailers offering E15 to also offer E10, EPA denied the petition and has no plans to mandate E10’s continued availability. “This will certainly lead to the very misfueling that EPA wants to avoid,” Wasil said.

Potential impacts
Potential adverse engine impacts from a 15% ethanol blend include increased engine heat; leaks from earlier deterioration of seals, gaskets, and fuel lines; and unintended clutch engagement, which would raise safety concerns for chain saws, hedge trimmers, and other blade products, according to Ranajit Sanhu, an independent technical consultant who testified on behalf of the Outer Power Equipment Institute.

“Unequivocally, the answer is that millions of products including most nonroad engines and equipment will sustain a range of damage if the ethanol content of gasoline is increased to 15%,” he testified. Tests by DOE and others confirm this, Sanhu added.

Heather White, chief of staff and general counsel for the Environmental Working Group, and Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, also separately criticized EPA’s E15 actions. “Putting aside the very definite and common sense problem of misfueling that this action will cause, the National Chicken Council cannot understand why the federal government is taking this untimely and unfortunate step to put more pressure on an already precarious corn crop this fall,” Brown said.

But W. Steven Burke, president of the Biofuels Center of North Carolina, said that the private, nonprofit corporation, which the state’s legislature established in 2007 to develop the capacity to produce alternatives to petroleum-based fuels, supports EPA’s E15 decisions.

“More time is clearly needed for advanced biofuels technologies to develop,” Burke said. “In the interim, increased use of ethanol serves as the first stage foundation required for new biofuels technology, affirms biofuels within consumer and national life, and prepares for large amounts of next generation feedstocks, technology, and facilities.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

Obama’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget recycles oil tax increases

02/02/2015 US President Barack Obama has proposed his federal budget for fiscal 2016 that he said was designed to help a beleaguered middle class take advanta...

So much for cooperation

02/02/2015 Congressional majority leaders and the Obama administration came into 2015 pledging to at least try to be less combative and more cooperative in ru...

Woodside gets NEB approval for British Columbia LNG exports

02/02/2015 Woodside Energy Holdings Pty. Ltd. has received approval from Canada’s National Energy Board on its application for a 25-year natural gas export li...

Data refute Lew's claims about taxes paid by producers

02/02/2015

On the subject of taxation, administration officials count on the public to believe anything.

Kerry expects to receive other agencies’ Keystone XL reports soon

02/02/2015 US Sec. of State John F. Kerry said he expects to receive other federal agencies and departments’ reports soon on the proposed Keystone XL crude oi...

Iran yields to Russia in talks over Caspian resources

02/02/2015 Iranian acquiescence to Russia, to which the Islamic Repubic increasingly turns in response to pressure from the West, has become a standard featur...

US oil, gas industry eager to build on past successes

02/02/2015 The US oil and gas industry entered 2015 optimistically as a dramatically improved US supply outlook's economic and security benefits became increa...

The ANWR blitz

02/02/2015 Deception begins with a 58-sec video on the White House web site in which President Barack Obama says he'll ask Congress to make the whole Arctic N...

Victoria extends drilling, fracing ban

01/30/2015 The new Victorian Labor government of premier Daniel Andrews has extended the coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and hydraulic fracturing ban in the s...
White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

When Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST


Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected