But the agency said a final decision would not be made until the results from further tests, including by the Energy Department on the long term emissions impacts of higher ethanol blends.
The announcement drew a mixed reaction from ethanol producers who have struggled in the economic downturn.
Growth Energy, a trade group of producers, petitioned EPA to allow for more ethanol to be blended with gasoline.
“The announcement is a strong signal that we are preparing to move to E15,” said ret. Gen. Wesley Clark, who is the co-chairman of Growth Energy.
But Bob Dinneen of the Renewable Fuels Association had a different take.
“The delay threatens to paralyze the continued evolution of America’s ethanol industry,” he said.
EPA said that it was committed to increasing the use of renewable fuels. Congress has mandated that 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel be produced annually by 2022. In light of that requirement, EPA said it was “clear that ethanol will need to be blended into gasoline at levels greater than the current limit of 10 percent.”