Recent Press Releases

Thune Critical of EPA's Mixed Signals on E15

Questions timing of delayed, incomplete approval of higher ethanol blend

October 13, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC —  Senator John Thune today expressed concern over the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) expected announcement this afternoon to approve a partial waiver for the use of E15 (15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline) in conventional vehicles with a model year of 2007 or newer, and called on the Obama Administration to immediately expand approval to additional model years.

"After nearly a year of stalling on making a decision to approve the E15 blend and missing numerous deadlines, the Obama Administration now plans to announce a partial approval of the E15 blend for use in certain vehicles," said Thune. "Unfortunately, the EPA's announcement is limited to only a small portion of on-road vehicles manufactured since 2007, despite numerous tests which have demonstrated that E15 is suitable for older on-road vehicles as well. Limiting the approval of E15 to only vehicles made since 2007 will have very little effect on the overall production and use of E15 and will lead to unnecessary consumer confusion at the gas pump.

"For far too long, the Obama Administration has sent mixed signals regarding domestic ethanol production which has stifled job creation and economic growth in the clean renewable energy sector. The EPA should stop caving in to the demands of special interests and immediately approve the E15 blend for all light weight vehicles in order to end the continued uncertainty for consumers and producers."

Prior to today's announcement, the EPA has limited ethanol from being blended with gasoline above E10 for use in non-flex fuel engines. Without moving to a higher blend, ethanol is arbitrarily capped which creates a "blend wall," the point when ethanol production exceeds market demand due to the E10 limitation. Full approval of E15 could create as many as 136,000 new jobs and reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil. The ethanol blend wall is particularly burdensome because the 2007 Energy bill requires the production and use of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. Even with the EPA's expected decision, industry experts believe E15 will not be available to consumers until additional decisions are made by states and the EPA over the next several months.

Thune first called on the EPA and Department of Energy to prepare for higher ethanol blends in 2007. Last July, Thune led a bipartisan group of his colleagues in sending a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, urging her to approve the request for higher blends made by a coalition of renewable fuels producers. In 2008, Thune led another group of Senators in urging the Department of Energy to continue higher blends studies and toured both the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to get a firsthand briefing on higher blends testing.

Also in 2008, Thune hosted a bipartisan meeting with several of his colleagues to discuss the importance of approving intermediate ethanol blends such as E15 and E20. At this meeting, Thune brought together the leadership of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, and the EPA to underscore the critical importance of interagency coordination on E15 and E20 studies. Thune also hosted a similar meeting with several U.S. Senators and auto manufacturers including Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Chrysler LLC.