Court denies E15 hearing, allows sale of higher ethanol blend Ford Motor Co.

Court denies E15 hearing, allows sale of higher ethanol blend

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently denied a petition filed last October to rehear a case regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) decision to allow the sale of gasoline containing 15% ethanol – meaning the sale of such fuel blends, typically termed “E15,” will be allowed to go forward.

However, many groups – especially the AAA and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) association – remain vehemently opposed to selling gasoline blended with 15% ethanol due to the potential damage such a high concentration could cause.

“EPA has authorized the sale of an ethanol blend that virtually every automobile manufacturer has warned will damage existing vehicles,” AFPM General Counsel Rich Moskowitz said in a statement. “We remain concerned that EPA's partial waiver will result in significant misfueling and will harm consumers.”

“[Our] concern is not about ethanol. In fact, AAA believes that ethanol-blended fuels have the potential to save Americans money and reduce the nation’s dependency on fossil fuels,” noted Robert Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA.

“The problem is that available research, including the EPA’s exhaust emissions tests, is not sufficient evidence that 15% ethanol is safe to use in most vehicles,” he stressed. “While the agency did test E15, their research focused primarily on exhaust emissions and associated components such as catalytic converters. While this research was consistent with the EPA’s mission, it never fully examined whether it might damage engines and fuel systems.”

It is for that reason AFPM said it filed a petition for a rehearing of the Grocery Manufacturers of America, et al. v. EPA case on Oct. 1 last year, stating that the EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act by granting partial waivers to allow the use of E15 in certain engines, including vehicles model year 2001 and newer.

AAA’s Darbelnet noted that five light vehicle manufacturers – BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen – said their warranties will not cover E15 damage claims, while eight others – General Motors, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo – have stated that E15 does not comply with fuel requirements specified in most owners’ manuals and may void warranties.

“It is difficult to comprehend why the EPA would choose to ignore all these warnings,” he said. “The automakers’ position is understandable given that most cars were never designed for E15. Only about 5% or 12 million of the more than 240 million light-duty vehicles on U.S. roads today are approved by manufacturers to use E15, which include flex-fuel models, 2001 and newer Porsches, 2012 and newer GM vehicles, and 2013 Fords.”

AFPM’s Moskowitz added, however, that the legal battle over E15 may not be over quite yet. “We are analyzing the decision and will determine whether to seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. 

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