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E15 Bill Tabled by Federal Legislators

 

On July 21, federal legislators decided to table the debate surrounding the higher ethanol blends legislation until after the August recess. The bill (S. 517), known as the Consumer and Fuel Choice Act, allows for the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver to be applied to ethanol blends above 10 percent. The extension would allow for retailers nationwide to be able to sell blends such as E15 year-round. The bill has gained bipartisan support and was introduced by a group largely comprised of Midwestern lawmakers.

Proponents of the bill were slightly dismayed at this decision, noting that the bill would be a boon to the ethanol industry and would help to further the Renewable Fuel System (RFS). Bob Dinneen, President of the Renewable Fuels Association, is quoted as saying “…The RFS helps break up Big Oil’s near-monopoly at the pump, providing consumers with a lower-priced, cleaner, higher octane source of fuel.” Others remain hopeful, even in the face of the legislative stall. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor is quoted as saying “We will continue to work with our bipartisan sponsors to enact this bill to provide drivers across the country cleaner fuel options year-round.”

Opponents of the bill are hopeful the legislature will come to a different conclusion after the recess. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is not pleased with the overall impact the bill might have on the market and on the RFS itself. Senator Inhofe is quoted as saying “With all the problems with the RFS, we should not give…this waiver.” Other market participants are concerned with the cost that may be delegated smaller gasoline retailers. In a short excerpt, PMAA cited concerns such as “effects of ethanol blends higher than 10 percent (including E15) on existing underground storage tank (UST) system infrastructure.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. ethanol production averaged 1.02 million barrels per day through the first half of 2017. Even without the current bill, the number of gas stations selling E15 has increased as the price of ethanol blends has remained routinely five to ten cents cheaper than standard gasoline. The bill is expected to be reconsidered after the August recess.

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