For First Time, E.P.A. Proposes Reducing Ethanol Requirement for Gas Mix
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday proposed reducing the amount of ethanol that is required to be mixed with the gasoline supply, the first time it has taken steps to slow down the drive to replace fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy. The move was expected, but it drew bitter complaints from advocates of ethanol, including some environmentalists, who see the corn-based fuel blend as a weapon to fight climate change. It was also unwelcome news to farmers, who noted that the decision came at a time when a record corn crop is expected, and the price of a bushel has fallen almost to the cost of production.
“We’re all just sort of scratching our heads here today and wondering why this administration is telling us to burn less of a clean-burning American fuel,” said Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association.
Farmers, ethanol producers and high-tech companies trying to make renewable fuels from wastes have all invested heavily in the ethanol industry, with an expectation of a heavy demand, advocates said.
But the E.P.A. said that a big part of the problem was that automobile fuel systems and service stations were not set up to absorb more than about 10 percent ethanol. Most cars on the road, according to the automakers, and most fuel pumps, according to service station groups, are limited to the current mixture, called E10, and there has been little demand by consumers for more.
Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, said that the ethanol interests were relying on “a continual government program that is an anachronism in 2013, that is seriously flawed, that puts consumers at risk, that consumers don’t want.”
The timeline for phasing in enormous volumes of renewable fuel is laid out in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, but the schedule has turned out to be impractical, forcing year-by-year adjustments. In the years since the law was passed, imports of oil have declined sharply and domestic production has risen.