Recent Press Releases

Thune Encourages Public Comment on Increased Ethanol Usage Before Deadline

Proposal Seeks to Boost Use of Homegrown Energy

July 13, 2009

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today reminded South Dakotans that they have until July 20, 2009 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. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing a fuel waiver application that would permit the use of E15 (15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline) in automobile engines.

Currently, the EPA limits ethanol from being blended with gasoline above E10 (10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline) for use 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 the EPA's consideration of the fuel waiver application 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 before the deadline expires," said Thune. "Renewable fuels have been a great success story in both our attempts to reduce our overdependence on imported oil and creating economic opportunity in rural communities. This expansion to higher blends is a critical step in expanding our biofuels industry and moving toward cellulosic ethanol."

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.

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 will 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.

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 E15 and 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.

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.