No Waiver? No Sense.

By Ann Bailey, Ethanol Producer Magazine

Perplexed about why E15 does not get a one-pound waiver?

That’s a sign you clearly understand the issue, says Monte Shaw, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association executive director. People who ask questions are seeking logical explanations for why E15 does not get the one-pound waiver and there just aren’t any, Shaw says. “The situation doesn’t make sense. When I try to explain it to people, I’ll go through it step by step and then they’ll look at me, confusedly, and say ‘Huh?’ and then I’ll say ‘Exactly, you’ve got it.’”

Congress amended the Clean Air Act in 1990 to allow blends of ethanol to get a one-pound waiver to accommodate for 10 percent ethanol being “splash blended” with gasoline. When 10 percent ethanol is added to 9.0 psi gasoline, the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) of the mixture rises to near 10 pounds per square inch (psi). As gasoline evaporates, volatile organic compounds enter the atmosphere and contribute to ozone formation, a problem that is exacerbated by warmer air temperatures. Without the one-pound waiver, gasohol, as the fuel was called then, would have required a base gasoline with an RVP of about 1 percent lower to stay below the 9.0 psi allowable maximum for air quality. The ethanol industry successfully argued that producing a special low-RVP blendstock would be costly and cause logistical problems.

“It was a well-intentioned rule and they (Congress) never thought the day would come when there would be a higher blend than 10 percent,” says Mike O’Brien, Growth Energy vice president of market development.

But that day did arrive and, as the ethanol industry sees it, it only makes sense that E15, which has lower evaporative emissions than E10, should be granted the one-pound waiver. However, the U.S. EPA regulation implementing the one-pound waiver applies it only to fuel blends of gasoline with 10 percent ethanol. In an enclosure to a Dec. 22, 2016, letter EPA sent to several Midwest governors, the agency says the one-pound waiver applies only to E10: “The revised statutory language in section 211(h)(4) specifically provides for a 1psi waiver exclusively for fuel blends of gasoline and 10 percent ethanol…,” a sentence of the letter reads.

The EPA added the word “exclusively” to the sentence, notes Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol executive vice president. “That’s their interpretation of the statute. That’s where the disagreement is between the ethanol industry and EPA. They think that authority is exclusive to E10. We argue they have the authority to apply it to grant the one-pound waiver to E15.”

To read the rest of the article on Ethanol Producer Magazine’s website, click here.