Today the Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of E15 for another subset of on-highway motor vehicles, this time allowing the use of gasoline containing up to 15 percent ethanol for model year 2001-2006 cars and trucks, according to a release from the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
Last October, the EPA approved the use of E15 for model year 2007 and newer vehicles as part of its response to a waiver petition filed in the spring of 2009 by pro-ethanol lobby group Growth Energy. This latest decision means the EPA has now approved the use of E15 for 62 percent of vehicles on the road today, according to car industry data cited by the Renewable Fuels Association.
While both partial waivers exclude marine engines and other non-road engines such as snowmobiles, lawn and garden equipment, the National Marine Manufacturers Association remains concerned about possible consumer confusion at the pumps, resulting in misfueling. The groups also wants to ensure that compatible fuels remain available for the nation's registered boat owners.
"EPA's decision to permit the use of E15 for even more on-road vehicles greatly increases the likelihood of misfueling for boats and other small engines," NMMA President Thom Dammrich said in the release. "NMMA is very disappointed that EPA has decided to move forward with E15 without mechanisms in place to protect consumers from confusion at the gas pump as well as the product failures that could be a likely result of misfueling with E15. We will continue to pursue this legal option to make sure that our manufacturers and consumers are protected from this incompatible marine fuel."
Gasoline retailers will not be able to sell E15 until EPA completes a new pump label rulemaking.
Advocates of alternative fuels praised the decision.
"Today's decision greenlights the use of E15 for nearly two out of every three cars on the road today and furthers proves ethanol is a safe, effective fuel choice for American drivers," Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said in a release. "EPA continues to move in the right direction with respect to increasing ethanol blends, but challenges still remain. The RFA continues to urge EPA to extend the waiver for E15 use to all cars and pickups."
The RFA says it worked with gas station owners and gasoline marketers to get legislation introduced in the last Congress to address misfueling concerns (the Renewable Fuels Marketing Act) and will continue to look for opportunities to reintroduce the legislation in the 112th Congress.
In December 2010, the NMMA filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit challenging EPA's earlier decision to approve E15 for model year 2007 and newer motor vehicles. NMMA joined the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers in a newly formed coalition called the Engine Products Group in pursuing this legal challenge.