- The Blend Wall: More Ethanol in Your Tank?
The Blend Wall: More Ethanol in Your Tank?
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The Blend Wall is the amount of ethanol that is allowed to be blended into a gallon of gasoline. Currently, this is limited to 10% of a gallon of fuel. The reason for this limit is because EPA must certify the safety of fuels in order to be legally used, and often times mid-level blends of ethanol (such as 15% or 20%) can cause harm to air quality and engines. Because there are only so many cars in the United States, this results in a cap on how much biofuel can be used in the U.S. Due to the Renewable Fuels Standard Mandate, the law is actually requiring the consumption of more biofuels than what fits under the blend wall. The RFS has actually spurred ethanol production so much that the ethanol industry is currently seeing the blend wall. Friends of the Earth has been following this issue for quite some time, on both the legislative as well as the administrative fronts.
Biofuels Lobby Petition to Increase Blend Wall
Spring 2009, biofuels lobby group Growth Energy petitioned EPA to increase the blend wall. Friends of the Earth in conjunction with partners in the environmental community responded to the petition with formal comments. We also worked with allies in the food and manufacturing industries to write to EPA together, urging them not to increase the blend wall without due scientific process.
Happily, EPA recently responded to the Growth Energy petition in the beginning of December 2009, stating that they would have to conduct further study on the impacts of an increased blend of ethanol in fuel. However, they also opened the door for what is known as a bifurcated fueling system. This would likely result in increased ethanol blends in “Regular” gasoline, meaning that older cars and practically all marine and small engines would be forced to purchase more expensive types of gasoline (“Super”, etc.), or risk the destruction of their vehicle, boat or other equipment. Friends of the Earth responded to EPA’s letter to Growth Energy.
Appropriations Riders to Skirt the Clean Air Act
While the Growth Energy petition was under review, biofuel proponents in Congress attempted to forcibly increase the blend wall through riders to 2010 Appropriations Bills. These attempts would have skirted the EPA’s ability to regulate fuels through the Clean Air Act. Friends of the Earth joined industry allies and successfully thwarted these riders.
Legislative Push for Sound Science
While there have been legislative attempts to avoid scientific due diligence on E-15, there has also been legislative push-back to this idea. In the fall of 2009, Senators Collins and Cardin introduced a bill that reiterates the need for testing on engines and air quality prior to increasing the blend wall. Friends of the Earth and others wrote to support this bill.