Friday, July 1, 2011

New Labels For a New Ethanol Fuel

This week, the EPA finalized labeling regulations for "E15" fuels--gasoline-ethanol blends that have "more than 10 and up to 15 percent ethanol."  The regulations attempt to ensure that drivers of light-duty vehicles with model years older than 2001 will not fill up their gas tanks with E15.


Why all of the attention to E15, and why the special label?  Growth Energy and other ethanol supporters applied for a Clean Air Act waiver in 2009, which the EPA initially denied but later granted in two partial waivers. These waivers are from the Clean Air Act's Section 211 prohibition against introducing new fuels that are not substantially similar to fuels or fuel additives used in certifying vehicles or engines of model year 1975 or higher.  The first partial waiver only allowed for E15 use in light-duty motor vehicles with model years of 2007 and higher, and the second expanded the time frame to model year 2001 and higher.  In granting the second partial waiver, the EPA concluded that light-duty vehicles of model year 2001 and higher are able to "maintain emission control performance when operated on E15."  The EPA noted, however, the necessity of preventing misfueling of the vehicles for which E15 is not approved; this is the requirement that led to this week's release of the labeling rules.  

Several of the organizations with stakes in the labeling requirements don't seem to be fans of the final label.  The American Coalition for Ethanol believes that previous proposed versions were too "inflammatory" and that the current one is an "improvement," but it objects to the language about the fuel potentially causing damage to older vehicles and to the label's "hazard-orange" color.  The Global Automakers group seems even more dissatisfied with the regulations, concluding that they "will not effectively prevent both intentional and unintentional misfueling."

-Hannah Wiseman

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