The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made an announcement today on the E15 waiver request, stating that it should be in a position by mid-2010 to approve E15 for vehicles model year 2001 and newer.

“While we would have strongly preferred that EPA approved E15 today for all vehicles, we’re pleased that progress is being made toward this goal,” said Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE). “We are confident that in the long run the data will demonstrate that E15 and higher ethanol blends such as E20 and E30 can effectively be used in all vehicles.”

ACE is the nation’s largest ethanol advocacy association and was one of the ethanol groups to submit the original waiver request on March 6.

The EPA letter stated, “it is clear that ethanol will need to be blended into gasoline at levels greater than the current limit of 10%.” The full letter can be read here.

“EPA’s recognition that ethanol will need to be blended at levels greater than 10% is significant,” said Lars Herseth, president of ACE. “We look forward to the approval for E15 being granted mid-year, and we fully expect the testing to support the use of E15 and even higher blends in all passenger vehicles on America’s roads today.”

The EPA letter stated: “Although all of the studies have not been completed, our engineering assessment to date indicates that the robust fuel, engine, and emissions control systems on newer vehicles (likely 2001 and newer model years) will likely be able to accommodate higher ethanol blends, such as E15.”

EPA said it is waiting for the full results of long-term testing by the U.S. Department of Energy on 19 vehicles, and although these tests are not expected until August 2010, the agency expects to have a “significant amount” of the total data by mid-June. “Should the test results remain supportive and provide the necessary basis, we would be in a position to approve E15 for 2001 and newer vehicles in the mid-year time frame,” EPA stated.

EPA says it will be creating a working group to address the issues of fuel pump labeling, and ACE will be in contact with the agency to participate in this process.

“EPA has acknowledged that we need to use higher ethanol blends, yet given EPA’s delay of the decision on E15, it is more important than ever that Congress enacts the Harkin-Lugar ‘Choice Act,’ S. 1627, which promotes flexible fuel vehicles, blender pumps, and ways for fuel retailers to economically add more options for their customers,” Jennings said. “Ultimately we need to shift the power to decide what fuels motorists use away from government agencies and oil companies and to consumers. We support maximum consumer choice for motorists to use E10, E15, E20, E30, E85, or ethanol-free gasoline, and we believe that when consumers are finally given these meaningful choices they will select the ethanol-blended fuels that work best in their vehicles. Senate Bill 1627 will be one of ACE’s top legislative priorities for 2010.”

ACE will sponsor a grassroots “fly-in” to Washington, DC in March to lobby Congress to support the “Choice Act” legislation for blender pumps and FFVs and extension of tax credits for ethanol. More details will be provided soon on the opportunities to participate in the grassroots “fly-in.”

ACE has researched the issue of higher blends for several years, data which was included in the E15 waiver request. In 2006 a fuel economy study of blends between unleaded and E30 was conducted, plus the tear-down of a non-flex-fuel Chevrolet Tahoe that drove 100,000 miles almost exclusively on E85. In December 2007, ACE was the first biofuels advocacy group to bring the issue of midlevel blends to Capitol Hill with the unveiling of its “Optimal Blends” study which showed the potential of blends beyond E10 in standard vehicles and served as a catalyst for further study. Just days before the E15 waiver request was filed in March, ACE brought 30 of its grassroots members to DC for a "fly-in" and met with Members of Congress and EPA Administrator Jackson to communicate the importance of moving beyond the E10 “blend wall.” Nearly 7,000 people signed ACE’s pro-E15 petition, signatures which were submitted to EPA during the public comment period.

ACE members include farmers, ethanol producers, industry suppliers, rural electric co-ops, the agriculture community, and others supportive of ethanol. Learn more about ACE at the BYOethanol campaign.