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    EPA Takes Significant Step Toward E15 Sales

    Move allows ethanol makers to register as suppliers.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Less than a week after the Senate introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at removing legal and infrastructure obstacles to the sale of alternative fuels in the Unites States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved a step closer to facilitating wider distribution of gasoline mixed with 15 percent ethanol by allowing manufacturers to register as suppliers.

    While the EPA is moving the process forward by allowing the registration, E15 still must clear another set of federal tests and become a registered fuel in individual states, according to the Associated Press. Ethanol makers, who applauded the latest EPA news, would then have to convince petroleum marketers to sell it at their gas stations.

    Twenty ethanol makers have registered so far to sell E15. They include large corn ethanol manufacturers, such as Archer Daniels Midland Co., based in Decatur, Ill., and Cargill Inc., headquartered in Wayzata, Minn. Ethanol makers in Iowa, the largest corn ethanol-producing state, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin also registered.

    The ethanol industry called the EPA's action the most significant development in a three-year effort to approve the sale of the mid-level ethanol blend. This latest move follows the agency's approval of health effects testing of the fuel in February.

    "Our nation needs E15 to reduce our dependence on foreign oil -- it will keep gas prices down at the pump and help to end the extreme fluctuations in gas prices caused by our reliance on fuel from unstable parts of the world," said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. "[The] announcement from EPA finally puts that goal within reach."

    The announcement also strengthens the ethanol industry's efforts to innovate and continue to deliver domestically-produced and affordable alternatives to foreign oil, said Buis. "With ethanol selling an average of a dollar a gallon cheaper than gasoline, and $4 a gallon gasoline on the horizon, we'd encourage all Americans to ask their local filling station how soon they will see more-affordable E15," he said.

    Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, commented: "American consumers may soon have some much deserved relief at the pump. [The] EPA decision clears yet another major hurdle in bringing E15 to the marketplace. States in the Midwest have begun to address their regulatory requirements and perhaps as early as summer, we could see E15 at fuel stations in the Heartland of America. The future for consumers, ethanol producers and this country has just gotten a little brighter, a little stronger."

    However, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers cautioned the EPA not to rush E15 to market. The trade group has a lawsuit pending, challenging the government's efforts to offer E15. According to the group's president, Charles Drevna, hasty introduction of E15 could endanger American consumers and damage their vehicles and gasoline-powered equipment.

    Fuel with higher ethanol content can damage engines not equipped with upgraded rubber parts, gaskets and other fittings. Many opponents worry that although E15 would not be approved for older vehicles, boats, lawnmowers and other small engines, consumers may mistakenly use it, according to the AP report.

    Nathanael Greene, director of renewable energy policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council, also said encouraging more corn production to boost ethanol use is not an environmentally sound idea. "We need to be using our land very judiciously if we're going to feed a growing population," he noted. "Corn ethanol is not efficient enough to be directly in competition with food."

    The Obama Administration has set a goal to help gas station owners install 10,000 blender pumps over the next five years. The government has provided grants, loans and loan guarantees to push the use of biofuels as well.

    The EPA said Monday's action follows an extensive technical review required by law, and testing by the Department of Energy and other organizations has shown E15 is compatible with engines in models the year 2001 and newer. The agency made clear that it is not requiring the use or sale of E15, and said gas pumps dispensing E15 will be clearly labeled so consumers can make the right choice.

    The convenience store and fuels industry has come out in support of a bill sponsored by Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho,) called The Domestic Fuels Act of 2012, which would allow retailers to sell new fuels with a lower cost of entry and at a lower risk of legal liability.

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