Recent Press Releases

Thune Encourages Comment on Increased Ethanol Usage

Proposal Seeks to Boost Use of Homegrown Energy

April 16, 2009

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune announced today that South Dakotans have the chance to comment on a proposal that would allow a higher percentage of ethanol to be blended with gasoline for use in non-flex fuel engines. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved forward with a fuel waiver application that would permit the use of E15 (15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline) in automobile engines, and it will soon be published in the Federal Register triggering a 30 day public comment period.

Currently, the EPA limits ethanol from being blended with gasoline above E10 (10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline) in non-flex fuel engines. Without moving to a higher blend, ethanol will be arbitrarily capped which will result in what is known as the "blend wall" - the point when ethanol production will exceed market demand due to the E10 limitation. Senator Thune has been working for the past two years to increase the use of higher blends of ethanol and today's action is the next critical step in this process, as stipulated under the Clean Air Act.

"I encourage South Dakotans to weigh in with the EPA and support the waiver request for E15 for use in non-flex fuel vehicles," said Thune. "Renewable fuels have been a great success story in both our attempts to reduce our overdependence on imported oil and the need to expand our use of renewable fuels. This expansion to higher blends is a critical step in expanding our biofuels industry and moving toward cellulosic ethanol."

The waiver request was submitted in March by over 50 ethanol producers. From that time, the EPA has 270 days to approve or deny the higher blends request. This comment period, as well as a review of the data and studies that were submitted with the E15 waiver request are to be completed during that time period.

The EPA could approve the waiver request for a blend of ethanol up to E15 or modify the EPA rule of "substantially similar fuel" to allow for higher blends to be used in non-flex fuel vehicles.

On March 4th, Growth Energy, an association of American ethanol producers, released a study showing the economic benefits that could be created by increasing the ethanol blend in the nation's gasoline supply from 10 percent to 15 percent. The report concludes that such a change could create and support 136,101 new jobs and inject $24.4 billion into the nation's economy annually.

A move to E15 would also offset the need to import seven billion gallons of gasoline annually, which is equivalent to 70 percent of the annual oil imports from Saudi Arabia. Additionally, since ethanol emits less carbon dioxide relative to regular gasoline, the approval of higher blends would result in the reduction of 60 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.

Last September, Senator Thune hosted a bipartisan meeting with several of his colleagues, including now-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, to discuss the importance of approving intermediate ethanol blends such as 15 percent ethanol (E15) and 20 percent ethanol (E20). At this meeting, Senator Thune brought together the leadership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S Department of Energy, and the EPA to underscore the critical importance of inter-agency coordination on E15 and E20 studies. In November of last year, Senator Thune hosted a similar meeting with several U.S. Senators, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Chrysler LLC.

In April 2007, Senator Thune wrote to the EPA asking the agency to prepare for a higher blends waiver request. Since that time, Senator Thune has lead a bipartisan group of Senators calling on the U.S. Department of Energy to make higher blends research on E15 and E20 a top priority.

"Comment periods were designed as a way for the public to provide input into agency decisions," said Thune. "I encourage constituents to take this opportunity to share their thoughts on the use of higher blends of ethanol in non-flex fuel vehicles."

Changes to the blend limitation are also needed because Congress has stipulated the production and use of ethanol under the 2007 Energy bill. The 2007 Energy bill included a Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) which calls for the production and use of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022. Unless the ethanol blend is increased from E10 to E15, the ethanol industry may not be able to meet the RFS for 2010 and beyond. Such a limitation will not only impact ethanol production in the near future, but it will also inhibit the transition to next generation cellulosic ethanol production.

Written comments must be received on or before 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0211, by one of the following methods:
  • Follow the on-line instructions for submitting comments.

  • E-mail:
  • Fax: (202) 566-1741.
  • Mail: Air and Radiation Docket, Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0211, Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode: 6102T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20460. Please include a total of two copies.
  • Hand Delivery: EPA Docket Center, Public Reading Room, EPA West Building, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20460. Such deliveries are only accepted during the Docket's normal hours of operation, and special arrangements should be made for deliveries of boxed information.