The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

On September 13, 2016, governors of seven ethanol producing states wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting the removal of the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) limit on E15. RVP measures gasoline volatility, and E10 receives a one pound-force per square inch (psi) RVP waiver between June 1 and September 15 that is not extended to E15. The letter states "EPA's disparate handling of E10 and E15 with regard to fuel volatility regulation is stifling the widespread adoption of E15 and mid-level ethanol blends." The governors continue to argue that "This inequitable RVP treatment of E10 and E15 has no scientific basis since E15 and higher blends are lower in volatility than E10 when blended with the same base gasoline. We strongly urge you to take immediate action to establish a volatility regime that allows a uniform gasoline blendstock to be suitable for blending both E10 and E15 (and higher blends) year round." The American Coalition for Ethanol and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association have both spoken out in support of the letter, stating the RVP limit is one of many barriers to ethanol being competitive in the fuel market.


 

On March 6, 2014, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) announced that the state will begin incorporating E15 fuel into its state fleet during a test period over the next six months. Currently, E10 is available and used in the state's flex-fuel and other vehicles, but the Governor wants to encourage the greater use of ethanol in his state. Ethanol is a $3.8 billion industry in South Dakota. Greater use of E15 is one potential solution to the E10 ethanol "blend wall." The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed reducing the 2014 renewable volume obligations for corn-starch ethanol due to blend wall concerns. A copy of the press release on the announcement released by Governor Daugaard's office is available online.


 

On March 3, 2014, EPA released its final rule on "Control of Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles: Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards" (the "Tier 3 rule"). A copy of the 1069-page Tier 3 rule is available online. A copy of EPA's five-page fact sheet on "EPA Sets Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards" is available online.


The Tier 3 rule is designed to reduce air pollution from passenger cars and trucks. Beginning in 2017, the Tier 3 rule will set new vehicle emissions standards and reduce the sulfur content of gasoline. It will treat the vehicle and its fuel as an integrated system. The final Tier 3 rule is very similar to the proposed version of the rule, although the final Tier 3 rule sets the ethanol content for emissions test gasoline at ten percent (E10) instead of at 15 percent (E15) as proposed.


The final Tier 3 rule is a part of the Obama Administration's efforts to combat the harmful impacts of climate change. It is expected to reduce several tons of harmful GHG emissions by 2030.
 


 

On October 30, 2013, Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Peter Welch (R-VT), and Steve Womack (R-AR) sent a letter signed by 169 Members of Congress to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy urging EPA to use its authority to reduce the 2014 statutory renewable volume obligations (RVO) for all types of biofuels, including conventional corn starch ethanol under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). A copy of the letter is available online.


The arguments made in the letter echo those put forth by the oil and gas industry and assert that the 2014 RVO reductions are needed to protect against corn price volatility and the E10 ethanol blend wall.


The letter comes at a crucial time in RFS advocacy. The oil and gas industry is leading the effort to repeal or weaken the RFS through regulatory, legal, and legislative channels, while the biofuels industry is fighting to maintain the policy, arguing that it is the fundamental driver of investment in the industry and that it provides EPA sufficient regulatory flexibility to make all necessary adjustments in its implementation. Further, the biofuels industry notes that no reductions in the conventional RVOs are needed as the RFS has minimal impact on corn prices and there are sufficient mechanisms for 2014 compliance. In addition, many in the biofuels industry argue that the concerns about the E10 blend wall are misplaced, as it exists because the oil and gas industry has refused to make or encourage the necessary investments to enable additional ethanol to be blended into the fuel supply.


A copy of Growth Energy's press release and the Renewable Fuels Association's (RFA) statement on the letter are available online and online.
 


 

RFA sponsored a study released this month by the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The study is available online. In the study, NREL analyzed various studies on the effects of E15 use in Model Year 2001 and newer cars and found no meaningful difference in the use of E10 and E15 in those vehicles. This is a significant finding because many in the oil and gas industries, among others, have warned of potentially harmful effects of using E15 in cars. EPA has approved E15 for use in Model Year 2001 and newer vehicles. Many in the biofuels industry have argued that, if more widely used, E15 could be one potential way to overcome the E10 blend wall, because it would allow for greater blending of ethanol in the U.S. fuel supply.