Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune recently sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen L. Johnson urging the EPA to begin preparations for an expeditious review of an application to approve the use of E-20 (20 percent ethanol and 80 percent gasoline) in automobiles. Presently, roughly half of all gasoline sold in the United States includes 10 percent ethanol. Senator Thune made the following comments:

“Conditions are ripe for the next big step forward in bolstering America’s energy independence. After several years of success, it is time for the federal government to prepare for the production and use of a new blend of ethanol, E-20. I have requested that EPA begin preparing for certification of the E-20 ethanol blend for use in automobiles.

“With approval of gasoline with a higher percentage of ethanol that American consumers can safely use in all types of vehicles, we can expand and ensure the market for ethanol and further reduce America’s dependence on foreign sources of energy. I’m hopeful that the EPA will move forward on my request and begin preparing for this upgrade.”

Moving forward in certifying the use of E-20 also paves the way for the future production and use of cellulosic ethanol to flow seamlessly into the marketplace.

Lisa Richardson, Executive Director of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, made the following statement:

“Senator Thune is on the money on this one. The greatest threat facing our industry is market access. It is critical that we have the ability in the Midwest to use a higher blend,” said Richardson.

Senator Thune currently serves as the ranking member of the Energy Subcommittee of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Full text of the letter below:

March 9, 2007

Stephen L. Johnson
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Johnson:

I write to bring your attention to an issue that will be before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the near future which will have a major impact on our nation’s growing biofuels industry.

As you are aware, ethanol and other renewable fuels are breathing new life into rural communities across our nation. The rapid increase of ethanol production is also offsetting the need of oil imports from unstable regions of the world, thereby strengthening our nation’s energy security. Both from a rural economic development and national security perspective, it is critical that our developing biofuels industry continues its steady growth over the remainder of this decade and beyond.

The need for fuel with a higher ratio of ethanol to gasoline is growing by the day. Flex fuel vehicle production is increasing, and I continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to expand the availability of E85 pumps at the retail level. However, the actualization of E85-capable vehicle production and E85 availability is not expected to keep pace with the rapid expansion of domestic ethanol production. According to the Congressional Research Service, approximately 99% of domestically consumed ethanol is E10 or blends of gasoline with up to 10% ethanol -- while only one percent is consumed as E85.
Recently, Guy Caruso, Administrator of the Energy Information Administration, in testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, stated that the supply of ethanol will soon exceed the demand because refiners primarily blend E10 for use in automobiles. Similar concerns have been expressed by industry leaders in my state who are concerned that we will hit an “E10 Wall” in the next two to three years if gasoline with a higher ratio of ethanol is not timely approved and made available to consumers.

In the coming months, I understand the EPA will receive a waiver request from the state of Minnesota asking that the EPA approve the use of E20 in automobiles. Pursuant to section 211 of the Clean Air Act, EPA has limited time to act on such an application. Given the importance of this impending request, and the required analysis involved to ensure that E20 does not impair the emissions control systems of vehicles, I urge the EPA to begin preparations now by reviewing any and all issues associated with such a waiver application. In the event you become aware of any legislative hurdles that may need to be addressed in this process, I ask that you inform my office as soon as possible.

In summary, the President has made a historic commitment to ethanol production by calling for 35 billion gallons of alternative fuel by 2017. I believe this goal, while ambitious, is achievable if we have the courage to continue to grow our nation’s biofuels industry. By approving higher grades of ethanol-blended gasoline for use in non-flex fuel vehicles, the EPA can ensure a viable market for ethanol, give consumers greater choice of transportation motor fuels, and ensure that our ethanol industry does not hit the “E10 Wall” as automakers and consumers transition away from traditional fossil fuels.

Thank you for your consideration regarding this matter and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions.

Kindest regards,

United States Senate