RFA: Revise RVP Rules to Level Playing Field

Joanna Schroeder

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is calling for more higher-level ethanol blends to enter the U.S. fuel supply. In a letter the ethanol organization called on Christopher Grundler, director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality for the Environmental Protection Agency, to update regulations to allow EPA to grant a 1-psi Reid Vapor Pressure waiver for other ethanol blends besides E10.

E15 pump Photo Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

“EPA’s current regulatory scheme creates an uneven playing field for E15 and other higher-level ethanol blends,” Dinneen said. “Many gasoline retailers have rejected E15 because EPA’s current RVP regulations make it nearly impossible for them to sell E15 to EPA-approved conventional automobiles all year-round. And most gas stations are not willing to dedicate storage space or dispensing equipment for a fuel that they can only sell for part of the year.”

In the letter, Dinneen noted that vehicle technology and emissions control systems have significantly evolved since 1989, when the 1-psi waiver was developed by EPA as a means of ensuring the availability of E10. “Ethanol availability and markets have … changed,” wrote Dinneen. “Today, E10 blends represent more than 95% of total gasoline sales in the United States. Marketers no longer are faced with the challenge of finding appropriate blendstocks for E10. Rather, marketers wishing to increase their use of renewable fuels beyond E10 are faced with the same dilemma E10 marketers faced 30 years ago.”

According to the letter: “The 1-psi RVP waiver – originally provided to expand the production and use of fuel ethanol – is now having a perverse effect of discouraging greater ethanol use in today’s gasoline market, and it is obstructing the successful implementation of important fuel and carbon reduction policies enacted since then, including the Renewable Fuel Standard (#RFS).” Dinneen encouraged EPA to use its authority to take immediate action by requiring refiners to lower the RVP of summertime conventional blendstock to 8.0 psi. He stated that such an action would allow gasoline retailers to give consumers access to a full spectrum of renewable fuel blends, and it would also clear the way for higher-level ethanol blends like E20 or E25 to meet applicable gasoline RVP requirements.

Dinneen anticipates significant pushback from the oil industry, along with false claims that such an action by EPA would “raise gasoline prices.” To counter these claims, RFA submitted a third-party analysis with the letter that concluded that lowering the RVP of gasoline blendstock by 1.0 psi in the summertime would only add about $0.0006 per gallon in refining costs. A separate third-party analysis submitted by RFA with the letter showed that lowering gasoline RVP by 1.0 would have positive implications for air quality by reducing emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.

In conclusion, the letter stated: “This action would improve air quality, remove arcane barriers to innovation and consumer choice in the retail fuel marketplace, simplify engineering of emissions control systems, and help facilitate compliance with Renewable Fuel Standard requirements.”

biofuels, E15, EPA, Ethanol, RFS