A new bill that addresses Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) limits on E15 — a federally approved fuel with 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline — will improve air quality, lower prices at the gas pump, and level the playing field for homegrown biofuels in markets where drivers want it.
Several biofuels champions in the United States Senate — including Senators Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — have been working to secure a path forward on this legislation in order to remove barriers to consumer fuel choice.
The Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act (S. 517) amends the Clean Air Act by making a technical correction to a decades-old statute that never anticipated the introduction of biofuels blends above ten percent.
The current statute is listed as the biggest barrier to fuel retailers offering more clean-burning E15 to consumers. Currently, E15 sales are limited during the summer months due to the drafting of the original statute that was passed in 1990.
This act is slated to be considered by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee before the August 2017 recess.
We asked Sen. Donnelly to explain the importance of extending the RVP Waiver to E15.
QUESTION: Sen. Donnelly, you are one of agriculture’s greatest champions in the Senate and you’ve been working tirelessly to pass an RVP waiver for E15. Why is the RVP waiver so crucial?
ANSWER: Extending the RVP waiver to all fuels is essential to selling higher ethanol fuels like E15 in the vast majority of the country. Without the waiver, a nonsensical EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulation prevents most fuel retailers from selling higher ethanol blends year-round. And this regulation isn’t in place because higher ethanol blends are bad for the environment. They’re actually better. It’s in place because of a quirk in law written 15 years before the RFS was even put in place. Ethanol and biofuels have come a long way since then, and it’s time we update the law to reflect that. When we get this waiver in place, retailers will have the freedom to offer more fuel options, consumers will have more choice and lower prices and the pump, and there will be more market opportunities for fuels grown on Hoosier farms.
Q: E15 doesn’t get the same RVP waiver as E10, even though it is far better for the environment and public health. Not only is it a less volatile fuel, it also has lower tail pipe emissions. Why has it been such a challenge to pass this waiver?
A: It’s about preventing market access and limiting competition. The RVP regulation is another hurdle we have to overcome in order to sell more biofuels. Don’t get me wrong, I’m for all types of American-made energy — oil, coal, natural gas, wind, solar, geothermal and biofuels — anything we can do in a responsible way here at home, I like to support it. But at some point, you’ve got to fight for a fair-playing field, and an EPA regulation that blocks E15 from being available in most parts of the country, but fails to improve the environment, doesn’t seem right to me. I’ll keep fighting until we do get it right.
Q: Why is consumer choice so important?
A: I think it’s simple: Consumers know that biofuels give them more opportunities to support American-made fuels that strengthen our national security and reduce fuel prices at the gas pump. I find it hard not to like that.
Q: Much has been said recently about the difficulties of the agricultural economy. The annual value of U.S. agricultural sector production is expected to fall $5.3 billion (1.3 percent) in 2017. Why does the development of the biofuels industry continue to be so critical for economic growth?
A: Well, we’ve had a few difficult years in agriculture with commodity prices being so low, but the development of the biofuels industry has helped create more market opportunities for our farmers. When we’ve got more demand for the products grown on our farms, our rural communities are so much better off. And it’s not just the farmers or the folks employed in the well-paying jobs at biofuel plants that benefit; it’s the ag retailers, equipment manufacturers, seed companies — all these industries that are inherently connected.
Q: Could you talk about the importance of the biofuels industry in Indiana?
A: How much time do you have? I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to get to know so many of the Hoosiers in the biofuels industry across the state. They’re really great. And it’s not just the importance of the economic growth provided by the industry that we talked about earlier; these folks do wonderful things in their communities too. We’re proud of our biofuels presence, and we’re happy for it to keep growing. Come join us in Indiana.
Biofuels Talking Points
Please use these talking points when visiting with your friends and neighbors about biofuels.
GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Fuel with higher blends of ethanol, like E15, cut carbon emissions by 43 percent compared to standard E10 gasoline, cleaning the air we breathe and lowering health risks associated with cancer and asthma.
GOOD FOR CONSUMERS
E15 may save drivers an average of 5 to 10 cents per gallon — savings that adds up over the year. Lifting confusing regulations will allow fuel retailers to offer less expensive options at the gas pump year-round.
GOOD FOR AMERICA
Biofuels play a vital role in strengthening America’s energy security. Biofuels containing ethanol displaced over 500 million barrels of imported oil in 2016. Giving consumers the freedom to choose homegrown biofuels reduces our dependence on imported oil and helps grow jobs here at home.
Renewable Fuel Volume Obligation Requirements
The Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sets a target for the use of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022. Each year, EPA issues RFS rulemakings that call for increasing volumes of renewable fuels. Visit POET’s policy section on POET.com for the latest information about Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) Requirements.