Push for sum­mer gas to be sold year-round

Hur­ri­canes show danger of lim­its

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - B Y BEN WOLF­GANG

In the wake of Hur­ri­canes Irma and Har­vey, the ethanol lobby has seized on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion to pre­ma­turely lift a ban on sum­mer sales of E15 gaso­line — a move made to thwart po­ten­tial gas short­ages due to the two mas­sive storms — as fur­ther proof the pol­icy is out­dated and should be scrapped by Congress.

The ban on fuel con­tain­ing 15 per­cent ethanol is en­acted each sum­mer and is meant to limit ozone, which causes smog dur­ing hot months. It typ­i­cally runs June 1 through Sept. 15 but was lifted ear­lier amid two ma­jor hur­ri­canes.

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, which over­sees the ban and broader U.S. ethanol pol­icy, made the move to al­low as much gaso­line as pos­si­ble to get to mar­ket.

Hur­ri­cane Har­vey had tem­po­rar­ily shut down some oil pro­duc­tion in Texas and off the Gulf Coast, while mass evac­u­a­tions in Florida as Hur­ri­cane Irma ap­proached stoked fears of gas short­ages across the state and through­out the re­gion.

The EPA’s E15 waiver ap­plied to 38 states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

The agency tried to en­sure that the fuel wasn’t used in en­gines not de­signed for gaso­line with that level of ethanol, an ef­fort to ad­dress the com­mon com­plaint from crit­ics that E15 can lead to mis­fu­el­ing and ve­hi­cle dam­age.

“The sale of gaso­line con­tain­ing up to 15 per­cent ethanol (E15) must con­tinue to com­ply with fed­eral rules, which are de­signed to min­i­mize the po­ten­tial for E15 be­ing used in ve­hi­cles that are not de­signed to use this fuel,” the agency said last week as it an­nounced an ex­ten­sion of its waiver, which ini­tially went into ef­fect at the end of Au­gust.

But two weeks later there have been few re­ports of mis­fu­el­ing, nor does there ap­pear to have been any other neg­a­tive con­se­quences of the de­ci­sion.

Ethanol ad­vo­cates say that’s proof that it’s time for Congress to re­visit the pol­icy and scrap the E15 ban for good, fi­nally al­low­ing the fuel to be sold year-round.

The Re­new­able Fu­els As­so­ci­a­tion (RFA), the ethanol in­dus­try’s lead­ing trade group, said Thurs­day that the move has helped keep gas prices low by putting more fuel into the mar­ket­place.

“While we are glad EPA re­sponded to the re­quests of RFA to al­low early sales of E15, the sum­mer [E15] re­stric­tion re­mains as an un­nec­es­sary and ir­ra­tional im­ped­i­ment to rapid ex­pan­sion of E15 in the mar­ket­place,” said RFA Pres­i­dent Bob Din­neen. “The events of the past few weeks have demon­strated that ethanol gen­er­ally, and E15 specif­i­cally, can help off­set gaso­line short­falls re­sult­ing from ma­jor dis­rup­tions in our fuel mar­ket.”

The push to al­low year-round sales of E15 had been gain­ing steam in Congress ear­lier this year.

A bi­par­ti­san group of se­na­tors — each from states that have ben­e­fited greatly from the ethanol boom of the past decade — in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion that would per­ma­nently lift the ban.

But the bill never even came up for a vote in the Se­nate En­vi­ron­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee, fall­ing vic­tim to bi­par­ti­san op­po­si­tion of se­na­tors of both par­ties and from a host of out­side groups that pres­sured Congress to kill the bill.

The com­mit­tee didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Thurs­day on whether the events of the past two weeks could lead to ac­tion on the bill.

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