EPA approval of E15 hurts consumers

Concerned that E15 may not meet refiners’ high quality standards and could harm the engines owned by the millions of Americans we serve every hour of every day, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association has filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review and overturn the EPA decision.

Our lawsuit contends EPA does not have authority under the Clean Air Act to approve a partial waiver that allows the use of E15 in some vehicles but not in others.

In addition, we argue that EPA based its partial waiver decision on new data submitted to the public rulemaking docket on the day before EPA announced its partial waiver. As a result, there was no time for the stakeholder review or meaningful public comment on the data required under the Administrative Procedures Act.

Even if it were used only in cars and light trucks in model year 2007 and later, there is evidence that E15 could cause costly engine damage. And according to EPA’s own guidelines, using E15 in older cars and light trucks and in other gasoline engines is still prohibited. That’s because E15 could cause engine malfunctions that could result in boaters stranded at sea, snowmobilers stuck in wilderness blizzards, and users of chain saws and other equipment being injured.

Engine manufacturers, including automakers, have also filed a lawsuit against EPA over its E15 decision, contending that E15 could cause serious engine damage.

NPRA is not anti-ethanol. Our members blend gasoline with 10 percent ethanol every day to manufacture the E10 fuel that safely powers most American cars and light trucks. We simply want to be sure that adding greater amounts of ethanol to gasoline is safe and will not cause engine damage.

Based on experience with leaded and unleaded gasoline years ago, we know that millions of consumers would no doubt use the wrong fuel – a problem called misfueling – if E15 becomes widely available.

Refiners are determined to protect consumers from harm they could suffer by using inadequately tested E15. We want to preserve the trust that families, farmers and truckers have developed in our products over generations as reliable and safe.

The ethanol industry has refused to acknowledge that engine damage could be caused by E15. Ethanol producers are happy to profit from E15, but leave it to refiners, retailers and others to address consumer concerns and any engine problems that E15 might cause.

The good news for consumers is that the EPA’s decision does not require refiners or retailers to blend or sell E15 and does not require consumers to buy the fuel.

Based on initial opposition to E15 – not just from refiners and retailers, but from the auto, boat, snowmobile and outdoor power equipment industries – it is not likely that E15 will become widely available anytime soon.

We believe testing of E15 should continue and be broadened to determine which engines – if any – can safely use the higher ethanol blend.

Extensive testing is being conducted by the privately funded Coordinating Research Council. However, those tests require more time for completion.

It’s understandable that companies selling ethanol support authorizing E15 so they can boost their sales. However, EPA should be focused on doing what’s best for American consumers rather than serving the narrow interests of a particular industry. 

There is no valid reason for EPA to rush to judgment and conduct a giant science experiment on the hundreds of millions of engines owned by the American people.

In the interests of consumer protection, EPA should follow the science and get full results of thorough, objective and independent scientific tests to determine if E15 is safe for all engines before authorizing use of the fuel.

Charles T. Drevna is president of NPRA, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.