Last Updated:November 25 @ 06:33 pm

Oil refineries sue EPA over ethanol plan

By Ken Thomas

WASHINGTON (AP) — A ruling by the Obama administration allowing the sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol is running into legal hurdles from trade groups opposing the plan.

The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday over the decision to allow the sale of gasoline containing higher blends of corn-based ethanol, the second major group to protest the ruling.

The Obama administration said in October that gas stations could start selling the ethanol blend for vehicles built since the 2007 model year, increasing it from the current blend of 10 percent ethanol. The decision has been criticized by boosters of ethanol who say it doesn't go far enough and by engine manufacturers who contend it could damage engines in vehicles, boats, snowmobiles and outdoor power equipment such as lawnmowers and chainsaws.

The refiners group asked a federal appeals court to overturn the decision, arguing that the EPA does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to approve a plan for fuels used in some engines but not others. The trade association also said EPA based its decision on new data submitted shortly before the ruling, failing to give the public a chance to review it.

Charles T. Drevna, the NPRA's president, said Monday the EPA had "acted unlawfully in its rush to allow a 50 percent increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline without adequate testing and without following proper procedures." His group was joined in the lawsuit by the International Liquid Terminals Association and the Western States Petroleum Association.

EPA declined to comment on the lawsuit. The agency has said a congressional mandate requiring increased ethanol cannot be met without the higher blends. Congress has required refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels, mostly ethanol, in automotive fuel by 2022.

The EPA is expected to consider the higher ethanol blends for vehicles built from 2001-2006 this year.

Last month, trade groups for the auto industry and engine manufacturers sued EPA over the ruling, citing concerns it would lead to motorists unknowingly filling up their older cars and trucks with E15 and damaging the vehicles' engines. Opponents say the problem, called misfueling, could intensify if E15 fuels are cheaper than more conventional blends, prompting owners of older vehicles to use the fuel despite future engine problems.

The ethanol industry says the EPA should have approved the ethanol blend for more vehicles. They say there is enough evidence to show that a 15 percent ethanol blend in motor fuel will not harm engine performance.

Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association, said the lawsuits "only serve to delay the inevitable" and that increased ethanol use "is the only proven and abundantly available tool to reduce our reliance on imported oil today."

The lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

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  1. FrancescoComment by Francesco
    January 4, 2011 @ 8:45 am

    Of course the EPA statement does not reflect the potential damage to engines.  What about the issue of the fact that we are allowing the export of the ethanol.  How does exporting ethanol offset the import of oil???

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  2. Mort_fComment by Mort_f
    January 4, 2011 @ 10:38 am

    Interestingly, there is an underlieing assumption  that ethanol is a benefit, when it has been well proven that it is a scam, especially when it is corn-based. Its only benefit has been to the balance sheet of major corn producers. There may be, eventually, a benefit if it can be economically produced from the inedible parts of a cornstalk. But we are a long way from that point.

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  3. Randy DuttonComment by Randy Dutton
    January 4, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

    E10 itself is extremely destructive to over $2 trillion of American vehicles, boat motors, ATVs, motorcycles, and open-cycle engines.  This is according to the auto and motor manufacturers, the American Motorcycle Association, and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.  Even the proponents of ethanol admit the incompatibility of ethanol to many metals, plastics, and elastomerics.
    On a personal note, my 2000 Town & Country van fuel line connection broke from E10 embrittlement, my chainsaw clutch engages during idling (ethanol burns hotter), my HomeLite tool fuel line dissolved in the fuel tank, my 50HP boat motor suffered damage, and my generator won’t start if the E10 fuel is a few months.  Further, when running for the state legislature, a WA state Dept of Ecology official told me that any more than 2% ethanol in the fuel and Seattle exceeds EPA Ozone Attainment levels.  So ethanol kills.
    How many lives will be lost because of ethanol in the fuel?
    How many billions of dollars will American’s shell out to China to replace ethanol destroyed equipment?
    How much land fill space will be used for prematurely destroyed equipment?

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  5. RichieComment by Richie
    January 4, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

    You have to understand that this stuff will ruin many cars.  When it destroys all these cars you have to go out and buy a new one.  These people know what they’re doing.

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  6. Claire MartinComment by Claire
    January 5, 2011 @ 12:38 am

    Oh, there’s another “available tool” alright, and he resides in the White House.  He could reduce our reliance on foreign oil by lifting the bans on off-shore drilling that he imposed in order to bankrupt American oil producers and force us to use windmills for power.

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