WASHINGTON – Gasoline can be sold with as much as 15 percent ethanol – up from the current 10 percent limit - in vehicles made between 2001 and 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said today.
The Obama administration's announcement dealt another defeat on ethanol concentration to automakers, who said they would probably contest the decision in court.
Last October, the EPA approved use of so-called E-15 gasoline for cars, SUVs and light pickup trucks made during the 2007 model year and later.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said today that use of E-15 gasoline would “allow more home-grown fuels in America's vehicles” without harm to emissions control equipment in cars and light trucks made since 2001.
Jackson said there had been “thorough testing” of the fuel by the U.S. Department of Energy.
EPA also said it will ensure that E-15 gasoline is properly labeled at the gas pump to prevent it from being pumped into vehicles that might be harmed.
An international automaker group said the government hasn't done enough testing to ensure that vehicles fueled with E-15 gasoline would be safe.
“All the data is not in to prove that E-15 won't have a negative effect on any vehicles,” said Mike Stanton, president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers.
Automakers seek court relief
He also expressed concern that, even with labels at the gas pump, consumers might accidentally fuel cars that haven't been approved for E-15 fuel.
Last month, U.S. carmakers and engine manufacturers asked a federal appeals court to require the EPA to reconsider its earlier ethanol decision on cars made since 2007.
Stanton said the lawsuit would probably be expanded to include vehicles covered by today's EPA decision.
There are more than 150 million vehicles made since 2001 on U.S. roads, and they account for 74 percent of vehicle gasoline consumption, EPA spokesman Cathy Milbourn said in an interview.
By 2014, there will likely be 187 million cars and light trucks made since 2001, and they will account for 85 percent of gasoline consumption, she said.
The decision today was hailed by a group of ethanol makers called Growth Energy.
“Increased use of ethanol will strengthen our energy security, create U.S. jobs and improve the environment,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.
The EPA did not grant approval today for E-15 gasoline use in motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles or non-road engines because testing has not yet determined it is safe, the agency said in a statement.