EPA Studies Increase in Allowable Ethanol Content

December 2, 2009

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it expects to make a final determination in mid-2010 regarding whether to increase the allowable ethanol content in fuel. In a letter sent to Growth Energy--a bio fuels industry association that had asked EPA to grant a waiver that would allow for the use of up to 15 percent of ethanol in gasoline--the agency said that while not all tests have been completed, the results of two tests indicate that engines in newer cars likely can handle an ethanol blend higher than the current 10% limit. The agency will decide whether to raise the blending limit when more testing data is available. EPA also announced that it has begun the process to craft the labeling requirements that will be necessary if the blending limit is raised.

In March 2009, Growth Energy requested a waiver to allow for the use of up to 15% ethanol in gasoline, an increase of five percentage points. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was required to respond to the waiver request by December 1, 2009. EPA has been evaluating the group's request and has received a broad range of public comments as part of the administrative rulemaking process. EPA and the Department of Energy also undertook a number of studies to determine whether cars could handle higher ethanol blends. Testing has been proceeding as quickly as possible given the available testing facilities.