The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to dramatically reduce the amount of ethanol going into the nation’s gas tanks from what Congress required in a 2007 energy law.
The decision was hailed as a win for motorists, the environment, and the oil and auto industries. For corn growers, it was a clear loss. The EPA wants to cut to 15.21 billion gallons the amount of corn-based ethanol and other biofuels required next year to be blended with gasoline under the Renewable Fuels Standard. That’s nearly 3 billion gallons below the 2014 target of 18.15 billion gallons set by the law.
“The EPA’s proposal to decrease ethanol requirements will help drivers by preventing a surge in gas prices or the premature expansion of E15 gasoline sales. While we would like to increase the use of alternative fuels, it is a plain fact that the Renewable Fuels Standard’s original targets are unreachable without putting motorists and their vehicles at risk,” said Bob Darbelnet, AAA president and CEO.
It’s the first time since the law took effect that the EPA is exercising its authority to lower the requirements. In doing so, the federal agency acknowledged the current mandate is not feasible.
Most fuel at gas stations now is an E10 blend — 10 5 ethanol and 90 % gasoline. Because of the mandate that increasing amounts of ethanol be used despite the fact that gasoline consumption is flat, fuel producers were hitting a “blend wall,” in which it became likely that more E15 fuel — which is 15 % ethanol — would have to be produced.
Carmakers have argued that higher concentrations of ethanol could damage engine components, especially in older cars. They took the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in June declined to hear the case.
Automakers are only now gradually starting to certify E15 for use in newer vehicles. General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. allow its use in newer vehicles. Chrysler Group LLC and many others still don’t approve of the fuel and say it could void warranties. More than 90 % of vehicles on the road are not approved by manufacturers to use E15.