June 1 marked the official beginning of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) “summer ozone control season,” which essentially prohibits retail gas stations from selling E15 (gasoline containing 15% ethanol) in more than two-thirds of the nation’s gasoline market. According to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the de facto prohibition on summertime E15 sales in conventional gasoline areas is the result of an arbitrary, decades-old EPA regulation that protects the status quo and denies consumers’ year-round access to a fuel that is cheaper, cleaner and offers higher octane than today’s gasoline.
In 2011, EPA approved the use of E15 in model year 2001 and newer vehicles, but the agency did not allow E15 to benefit from the 1-pound per square inch (psi) Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver that is available to E10 blends. As a result of this disparity, retailers in conventional gasoline areas would have to secure special “sub-RVP” gasoline blendstock in order to continue selling E15 during the EPA summer ozone control season, which lasts from June 1 – September 15. Such gasoline blendstock is generally unavailable in conventional gasoline areas and would be uneconomical to ship.
“Unfortunately, [June 1] begins yet another summer of limited options and higher prices at the pump for American drivers. EPA’s nonsensical and disparate RVP regulation offers no consumer or environmental benefit whatsoever,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “In the end, EPA’s actions are punishing consumers who are being denied access to the cleanest, lowest cost and highest source of octane fuel on the planet. We again call on EPA or Congress to resolve this arcane barrier.
“In Congress, Senator Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska) is leading the charge to ensure consumers have year-round access to E15, introducing legislation earlier this year to extend the RVP waiver to E15. We appreciate the Senator’s leadership on this issue and are eager for a resolution. Whether through legislative or administrative action, securing equal RVP treatment for all ethanol blends remains our top priority this year,” Dinneen added.
Additionally, RFA highlighted the need for E15 RVP relief in its comments recently submitted to EPA on regulatory reform.