Recent Press Releases

Thune Urges EPA to Certify Higher Ethanol Blends

Higher Blends Would Create Jobs and Decrease Dependence on Foreign Oil

July 27, 2009

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune led a bipartisan group of his colleagues on Friday in sending a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson regarding the EPA's pending decision on approving E15 (15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline) for use in non-flex fuel vehicles.

"Homegrown biofuels can do even more to reduce our dependence on imported energy sources if the EPA approves E15," said Thune. "Renewable fuels create jobs in rural South Dakota and keep our energy dollars in the country. Intermediate blends like E15 will expand the biofuels industry and help pave the way for cellulosic ethanol."

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 remain 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.

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 in the coming years. 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.

The text of the letter follows:

July 24, 2009

The Honorable Lisa Jackson
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 3426 ARN
Washington, DC 20460

Administrator Jackson:

We write today with regards to our nation's dangerous dependence on foreign oil and a pending decision before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve an intermediate blend of ethanol for use in non-flex fuel vehicles.

As you know, our nation imports over 70 percent of its oil from foreign countries. Many of these oil imports originate in countries that are politically unstable or unfriendly to the United States. In 2007, Congress acted to reverse this trend as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act, which included a historic Renewable Fuels Standard of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. For 2009, the new RFS requires that 10.21 percent of our projected fuel supply come from renewable fuel. This percentage will steadily increase through 2022, creating jobs in rural America and reducing imports from foreign nations.

Currently, ethanol-blended gasoline is limited to a 10 percent blend for use in non-flex fuel vehicles. The 10 percent blend (E10) was established by a waiver to the Clean Air Act submitted in 1978. With the new RFS and the innovation and investment in our renewable fuels industry, domestic ethanol production is quickly saturating the market for E10 and will soon be oversupplying the limited market for non-flex fuel vehicles. This market limitation, known as the blend wall, is already impacting the ethanol industry with respect to investment in new biorefineries and second-generation biofuels.

Earlier this year a group of ethanol producers submitted a similar waiver asking the EPA to approve a higher percentage of ethanol blended gasoline between E10 and E15. While the production of flex fuel vehicles increases and the market for E85 grows, we believe an interim blend between E10 and E15 is necessary to meet the new RFS and keep our renewable fuels industry growing. Particularly as second generation biofuels are being developed and commercialized, it is important that we also support the steady expansion of markets for ethanol by moving to a higher percentage of ethanol blended gasoline in the near future.

We thank you for your prompt attention to this request and look forward to working with you as we grow our renewable fuels industry and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.


Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA)
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS)
Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO)
Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH)
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL)