Monday, May 10, 2010

Automobile, oil and outdoor-equipment lobbies wave caution flags at 15% ethanol blend

A group of automobile, petroleum and outdoor equipment industry representatives have launched a new push to delay or block a possible Environmental Protection Agency ruling for a 15 percent ethanol blend for fuel for another year. In November EPA delayed its decision until later this year, saying only two of 19 tests had been completed, but industry officials say long-term durability tests will be complete by next year and any EPA ruling before then would be premature, Jessica Leber of Environment & Energy Daily reports. "It just appears that EPA is set on finishing this waiver prematurely," Al Jessel, Chevron's senior fuel-policy adviser, told Leber, speaking on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute.

The groups are worry that a 15 percent blend would have danage engines and emission-control systems. Last week, industry officials presented inconclusive and incomplete results from tests on four of eight models to be tested, findings that Jessel said were at least cause for concern. Some also worry about a high probability of "misfueling," accidentally using 15 percent ethanol in cars made before 2001, which are supposed to use no more than 10 percent. A proposal to equip E15 pumps with larger nozzles that would only fit newer cars has not caught much traction.

Concerns over who will foot the bill also have the automobile and petroleum industries worried. "We face the customer," Kris Kiser, with the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, told Leber. "The liability will not come on them. We have a much bigger stake." He argued that the ethanol industry "should be responsible for a trust fund to pay what he predicted would be a lot of claims for failed engines, since it is unclear whether the government would step in," Leber writes. (Read more, subscription required)

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