EPA to Decide This Fall Whether to Permit Increase in Ethanol Blend

The Environmental Protection Agency now says it expects to decide this fall whether to allow higher blends of ethanol in gasoline following the completion of testing currently being conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy on newer vehicles designed to assess whether more ethanol damages engines.

The Environmental Protection Agency now says it expects to decide this fall whether to allow higher blends of ethanol in gasoline following the completion of testing currently being conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy on newer vehicles designed to assess whether more ethanol damages engines.

According to EPA, DOE is on schedule by the end of September to complete testing designed to determine the effects of higher ethanol blends on vehicles built after 2007. DOE also is testing some vehicles built before 2007, as well as fuel tanks and other fuel handling equipment to see how they might be affected a E15 blend. Ethanol content in gasoline is currently capped at 10 percent (E10).

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the announcement is good news for ethanol producers and that the EPA is taking "a significant step forward" by discussing their timeline.

"With this green light, USDA is surging ahead on our work to provide support to feedstock producers, biofuel refiners and infrastructure installers, such as blender pumps, to ensure that all the pieces of the ethanol supply chain are ready to supply the market demand," Vilsack said.

Separately, in a letter to Archer Daniels Midland CEO Patricia Woertz, EPA said it is considering an earlier ADM request that the agency allow the use of an E12 ethanol blend. Earlier this month, Woertz has requested the more modest boost, pointing out that E12 is "substantially similar" to the E10 bend that currently is approved.

Increasing the ethanol content in gasoline raises the oxygen level and corrosive properties of the fuel, so while EPA said it will give "careful attention" to ADM 's request, test data would be needed for such approval, wrote EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy. "However we are not aware of any test data using 12 percent ethanol blends," McCarthy said.

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