Ethanol volatility bill represents false choice, API official says

The US Congress should substantially reform the federal Renewable Fuel Standard and not waste time on a bill introduced in February by senators from several farm states to expand volatility waivers for fuels with higher ethanol blends, an American Petroleum Institute official contended.

“There’s no question this bill presents a choice, but we believe it’s a false choice,” API Downstream Group Director Frank J. Macchiarola said the day before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s scheduled hearing on S. 517, which Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and 13 Republican and Democrat cosponsors introduced on Feb. 2.

“The Fischer amendment would reverse policies supported by decades of information and independent research,” Macchiarola said. “[Gasoline with a 15% ethanol blend] simply is not ready for prime time. There are too many potential problems with it.”

The bill would extend Reid Vapor Pressure waivers for gasoline with a more than 10% ethanol blend into summer months. Macchiarola said the measure is more than a foot-in-the-door for promoting wider E15 use. “It provides a waiver for a fuel that we believe is not ready for the marketplace. That alone should give members pause. This legislation doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” he said.

Fischer and the other sponsors said when she introduced the bill that it would increase E15 and other higher ethanol gasoline blends’ market penetration by allowing retailers to sell then year-round, increasing regulatory certainty and eliminating confusion at the pump.

Macchiarola conceded that some retailers might favor the bill. “But it’s not just an infrastructure question, but one of compatibility,” he said. “Independent research by both the auto and the oil and gas industry indicates this fuel is not warranted. Drivers have made it very clear that they’re not interested in having more ethanol in their gasoline.”

RFS reform bills received bipartisan support in the 114th Congress, and the API official said that this could grow in the 115th. “There are a wide variety of views on this issue, but we’re approaching a consensus that something needs to be done on this issue. It’s basically a situation of great uncertainty after 2022 that’s bringing people to the table to make meaningful reforms to the RFS,” he said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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