Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | December 1, 2009

Kentucky environmental attorney Sanders says EPA will decide next year whether to double use of ethanol in motor vehicle fuel.

EPA announced that it expects to make a final determination in mid-2010 regarding whether to increase the allowable ethanol content in fuel.  In a letter sent today to Growth Energy – a bio fuels industry association that had asked EPA to grant a waiver that would allow for the use of up to 15 percent of ethanol in gasoline – the agency said that while not all tests have been completed, the results of two tests indicate that engines in newer cars likely can handle an ethanol blend higher than the current 10-percent limit.

The agency will decide whether to raise the blending limit when more testing data is available. EPA also announced that it has begun the process to craft the labeling requirements that will be necessary if the blending limit is raised.

In March 2009, Growth Energy requested a waiver to allow for the use of up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline, an increase of five percent points. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was required to respond to the waiver request by December 1, 2009. 

EPA has been evaluating the group’s request and has received a broad range of public comments as part of the administrative rulemaking process. EPA and the Department of Energy also undertook a number of studies to determine whether cars could handle higher ethanol blends. Full text of EPA’s letter: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/additive.htm

FYI.   There are more than 35 Senators from corn producing states, and there is a lot of legislation bottled up in the U.S. Senate.  The odds of EPA approving a huge increase in ethanol usage is not likely to be a true environmental issue but rather a political one. 

Politics always enter into the equation when the issue has a financial value to one side or the other.  This decision favors the Obama Administration in a tit for tat with Senators from the corn belt. Let’s hope Obama plays his cards to shrewd perfection on this one.

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