EPA Grants Waiver for 15 Percent Ethanol For Use in Model Year 2001-2006 Vehicles

The Environmental Protection Agency has granted a Clean Air Act waiver for gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol for use in model year 2001-2006 cars and light trucks, including sport-utility vehicles and minivans.

The Environmental Protection Agency has granted a Clean Air Act waiver for gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol for use in model year 2001-2006 cars and light trucks, including sport-utility vehicles and minivans.

The announcement follows EPA's granting of a waiver for 15 percent ethanol (E15) for model year 2007 and newer vehicles Oct. 13. The limit on ethanol content had been 10 percent for all vehicles, and that limit remains in place for pre-2001 vehicles.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement that Department of Energy testing showed that 2001-06 vehicles can run safely on E15. "Recently completed testing and data analysis show that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks," Jackson said. "Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America 's vehicles, this administration takes those steps."

The waiver does not apply to motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles, or nonroad engines such as those in lawn mowers and chainsaws. According to EPA, current testing data do not support a waiver for those vehicles and equipment.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers released a statement saying, "We have no reason to believe that EPA has adequately addressed the concerns that the Alliance and others have raised for months now related to the adequacy of testing."

"We believe more research is needed to determine how increased ethanol levels could affect vehicles that were designed and warranted for E10," the alliance said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and farm-state members of Congress, praised the announcement. "Today's announcement is another important step to get existing ethanol production capacity into the market to support and create jobs in rural America , improve our nation's energy security, protect our environment, and provide the renewable fuels industry with the support it needs to grow and mature," he said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, "I've been frustrated with the amount of time it's taken EPA to reach these decisions, and I'd still like to see a waiver for E15 use in all vehicles, but I also appreciate that the EPA administrator has made certain to base the decisions on sound science, which puts the waiver decision in a very strong position against court challenges from opponents."

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) also praised the partial waiver, calling it "a significant step for the future of the ethanol industry."

Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, issued a statement saying: "EPA's decision today is a sound one, but it doesn't address the issues that still remain regarding a segmented market place and the introduction of a new fuel. RFA will continue to work with EPA and other regulatory bodies to expand ethanol use beyond even 15 percent . Simultaneously, we will continue our dialogue with lawmakers to develop and implement sound policies that provide the proper incentives to grow ethanol use across a variety of blending levels."

On the other side of the issue, the National Chicken Council said EPA had compounded a bad decision with the announcement. "EPA's decision is another giveaway to the ethanol interests and again demonstrates EPA cannot or will not balance the broad national interests on this issue," said Bill Roenigk, the group's senior vice president and chief economist. "E15 may be good for ethanol producers and corn farmers, but it is clearly detrimental to all other interested parties."

Roenigk predicted higher animal feed prices for his members that would ripple through the food supply chain and contribute to higher food prices. "When consumers ask why their food costs are higher, it will be difficult for EPA to explain that today's decision had no impact on the food shopper's dollar," he said.

National Pork Producers Council spokesman Randy Spronk said, "It's very disappointing that the administration made this decision given the rising price of corn and the lower estimate for this year's corn harvest that recently was announced.

NPPC opposed raising the blend rate, which it says would put further upward pressure on corn supplies, increasing not only pork producers' cost of production but their exposure to regional corn shortages as demand –– including from exports and the federal ethanol mandate –– reduces supplies. Smaller supplies also would elevate the potential catastrophic risk to producers of any seasonal weather event, according to NPPC. 

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