Senators Push Bipartisan Bill to Make Ethanol Blends Available Year-Round

July 15, 2021 by Dan McCue
A biofuel plant in Mason City, Iowa. (Photo: Growth Energy via Instagram)

WASHINGTON – In the wake of a federal appeals court ruling striking restrictions on the summertime sale of ethanol blended fuel, a bipartisan trio of senators is seeking to ensure that low-carbon, 15% ethanol fuel blends are available for purchase in all U.S. markets, year-round.

The Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act was introduced Wednesday by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

It would permanently extend the 1.0 psi summertime Reid vapor pressure waiver to ethanol blends beyond E10, thus eliminating any seasonal restrictions on sales. 

While the “Reid vapor pressure waiver” is a mouthful of jargon, what it relates to is the speed at which liquid fuel evaporates.

Since the late 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency has regulated the “vapor pressure” of gasoline sold at retail stations during the summer ozone season — running roughly from June 1 to Sept. 15 — to reduce evaporative emissions that are harmful to the ozone.

In June 2019, the Trump Administration’s EPA revised its interpretation of a provision of the Clean Air Act that grants a 1.0 psi summertime waiver of Reid vapor pressure requirements. 

In doing so, it made biofuel blends like E15 available to motorists year-round.  

However, on July 2, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the 2019 rule, holding the phrase “contains 10%” in the relevant statutory text did not extend the 1.0 psi RVP waiver from E10 to E15.

The decision has the potential to limit the amount of E15 in conventional fuel areas during the summer, affecting 85% of current E15 fuel retailers across the country. 

The bipartisan bill would fix the language and restore motorists’ ability to buy the cleaner fuel whenever they want to.

“We’re grateful our congressional champions acted swiftly on behalf of farmers, biofuel producers, and drivers nationwide to introduce the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, a biofuel industry trade association.

“The Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act would make permanent the RVP waiver for summertime use of higher blends of biofuels, ensuring consumers have year-round access to a lower-carbon, lower-emission renewable fuel that saves money at the pump,” Skor said.

 E15 is a 15% ethanol blended fuel, known to many consumers as Unleaded/Regular 88 (UNL88), that enables  drivers to easily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. 

According to Growth Energy, if the United States transitioned from driving with the standard E10 blend to E15, the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions would decrease by 17.62 million tons per year, the equivalent of removing approximately 3.85 million vehicles from the road.  

The biofuel is currently approved for use in cars model year 2001 and newer and is available at over 2,460 retail sites in 30 states.

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