Last spring, EPA invited comments on a petition by Growth Energy, an ethanol producer trade association, to raise the allowable percent of ethanol blended into gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent.
Public Citizen was critical of the proposed change. Cars on the road today may not be able to run 15 percent ethanol (E15) without causing serious damage to their cars. Many owners’ manuals specifically admonish drivers not to fuel their cars with blends of ethanol greater than 10 percent. Doing so may void the car’s warranty – leaving consumers with potentially expensive repair bills.
Raising ethanol blending to 15 percent would also have negative impacts on air quality. These blends of ethanol are associated with greater levels of ground-level ozone, which is linked to asthma and other respiratory problems.
In December, EPA decided to defer its decision on Growth Energy’s petition until it could evaluate the results of ongoing study by the Department of Energy. The agency expects to issue a final decision this June.
But it would be inappropriate for the agency to make a final decision without providing an additional opportunity for public comment. The public comment period closed on July 20, 2009, but EPA will make its final decision based on additional information that was not available at the close of the comment period. Public Citizen strongly urges that the EPA provide an additional opportunity for public comment.
The agency must not make a premature decision. The studies cited in Growth Energy’s petition do not make a convincing case that E15 can be introduced into the market without having negative impacts on vehicles on the road today.