Senate Hearing Focuses on Higher Blend Issue

Cindy Zimmerman

One of the key messages of a Senate committee hearing on the Renewable Fuels Standard this week was that more research needs to be conducted before mid-level blends of more than 10 percent are approved.

Senate Environment CommitteeMargo Oge, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s office of transportation and air quality, submitted written testimony to the committee that said the agency is working with the Department of Energy (DOE) “to evaluate the impacts of the use of higher blends on the in-use fleet of highway vehicles and non-road equipment, and hope to complete the testing over the course of the next year.”

According to the testimony, EPA may consider a “conditional or partial” waiver of up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline, which would restrict its use to only certain types of vehicles. “If a conditional waiver were granted, it may necessitate changes in the fueling infrastructure to accommodate different blend levels,” said Oge. “New pump labeling requirements or other measures may be needed to ensure consumers use the appropriate fuel for their vehicles and equipment.”

EPA does intend to seek comment on both the ethanol blend waiver request and the proposal to implement RFS2, “as expeditiously as possible.”

The hearing this week featured a panel of witnesses speaking from both sides of the issue, including representatives from the petroleum industry, the American Lung Association and the Natural Resources Defense Council who all called for more testing to be done before higher blends are approved for use. Opening statements from all witnesses, as well as video from the hearing itself is available on-line at the committee’s website.

After the hearing, Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen told USDA radio news, “I’m not smart enough to know if 20 percent is the right number, or 15 percent, but I darn well know that more than 10 percent can be used in vehicles all across the country today and it will help to stimulate more demand, more renewable fuel use and that’s exactly what we need today,” especially if the country is expected to meet the RFS.

blends, Ethanol, Government