By Jeremy Peters, NFU Government Relations Representative

Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the much anticipated label for E15.  While the label is a positive step forward, much work remains to make E15 ready for prime time.

First, the label itself–a tremendous improvement over previous versions– could be further improved. For example, the precautionary disclaimer at the bottom of the label should remain neutral regarding damage to other vehicles, boats or gas powered equipment while the EPA continues to evaluate the use of E15 for those purposes. More neutral language would be better, such as simply saying “Not approved for use in other vehicles, boats or gasoline-powered equipment.” E-15 may cause damage in those types of engines, and it may not. Testing is not complete so we do not know for sure.

Additional approvals are also necessary before E15 is commercially available, including formally registering E15 as a motor vehicle fuel under the Clean Air Act, resolving compatibility issues between E15 and fuel storage and dispensing equipment, and potential changes to state and local rules. So E15 is still months away from coming to a fueling station near you.

Critics have been quick to disparage the label, saying it will not do enough to protect consumers from misfueling vehicles. Yet ultimately, nothing is enough for these critics because they simply do not like corn ethanol.

Consider excerpts of what Sasha Lyutse wrote on the NRDC blog:

“Given the magnitude of the threat to public health and the environment of E15 blends, relying on consumer labels at gas stations is a hopelessly inadequate response.”

“We need smart energy policies that speed our transition to the newer, cleaner advanced biofuels we need, not policies that lock more old, dirty corn ethanol into our fuel market.”

My advice for ethanol critics like Ms. Lyutse and the NRDC is, if you want to transition to advanced biofuels, you need ethanol. Because of the ethanol industry, tremendous investment has been made in infrastructure and in research to eventually bring more advanced technologies to scale. Until then, ethanol is the only alternative to old, dirty oil that is commercially available.

At National Farmers Union, we like all biofuels–the more the merrier. They are bringing investment and jobs to rural America, diversifying farm income, and gradually providing greater energy independence.

EPA should be commended for tuning out the naysayers and going forward with the E15 label. E15 has been sufficiently tested and found safe in 2001 and newer vehicles. With the label’s release, the U.S. is another step closer to giving consumers relief at the pump, decreasing our dependence on imported oil, and reducing emissions from fossil fuels.


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