This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.
Ethanol Group Petitions EPA to Raise Blend Levels in Gasoline
Growth Energy, an ethanol industry group, has submitted a waiver request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asking that the limit for blending ethanol into gasoline be raised from 10% to 15%. Currently, regular blends of gasoline are allowed to contain as much as 10% ethanol, a blend called E10, and this constitutes the primary market for ethanol fuel in the United States. Flex-fuel vehicles can also burn an ethanol-rich blend called E85, which contains 85% ethanol, but the market for E85 is relatively small.
Meanwhile, the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires that an increasing amount of renewable fuel such as ethanol be sold in the United States each year, and that becomes a particular challenge when gasoline consumption drops. In fact, for 2009, the EPA requires most refiners, importers, and blenders of gasoline to displace 10.21% of their gasoline with renewable fuels such as ethanol, up from only 7.76% in 2008, in part because of a drop in gasoline consumption. That requirement is already pushing up against the "blend wall," that is, the maximum amount of ethanol that can be sold in the form of E10 and E85.
To give the EPA more leeway to meet the RFS requirement, DOE and other agencies have been examining the possibility of allowing higher blends of ethanol in regular gasoline, which raises concerns about the impacts of higher blends on engine performance and air emissions. To address these concerns, DOE is conducting an ongoing test program to evaluate the potential impact of higher ethanol blends, including gasoline blends containing 15% and 20% ethanol. DOE is working with the EPA, industry, and other research groups to examine all the ramifications of increased ethanol blends. See the Growth Energy press release, the article from this newsletter on the 2009 RFS requirement, and the first report from the DOE test program (PDF 2.2 MB). Download Adobe Reader.