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Detroit automakers join lawsuit over E15 fuel approval


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Detroit automakers join lawsuit over E15 fuel approval

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington— Automakers joined a lawsuit today seeking to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to allow a higher blend of ethanol in newer vehicles.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers — the trade association representing Detroit's Big Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp., and eight other companies — joined the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute in filing a petition today challenging EPA's decision in mid-October to grant a partial waiver approving the sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol for 2007 model year and newer passenger cars and light trucks.

"Our organizations collectively represent some 400 million engine products used by tens of millions of people every day in the U.S. The safe and reliable use of those products is paramount to us and our customers, and the legal action we take today is to protect those customers," said Kris Kiser, speaking on behalf of the associations that have formed the Engine Products Group.

The petition, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asks that EPA's decision be remanded back to the agency and requests judicial oversight and review over whether EPA's "partial waiver" approval for E15 fuels — a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline — violates the federal Clean Air Act provisions, which expressly limit the circumstances under which EPA can approve applications for new fuels and fuel additives.

The petition challenges the ability of EPA to grant a partial waiver for three specific reasons, arguing the Clean Air Act does not authorize EPA to issue any "partial waiver" decisions; EPA's own statute passed by Congress in 2007 states that fuels can't be approved for the market that could cause failures.

Yet, E15 has been shown to adversely affect engines in non-road products and later model year vehicles, cause emission failures and increase air pollution due to misfueling, the groups say.

It also argues the testing, upon which EPA made its decision, was put in the administrative record too late to permit meaningful comment or scrutiny from concerned groups and stakeholders.

"The action EPA has taken to permit E15 to be sold as a legal fuel, even if limited only to certain products, will have adverse consequences for the environment and consumers. A partial waiver, by its nature, necessarily will result in the misfueling of products not designed or tested for E15 use," Kiser said.

Automakers expressed concern that the decision is premature and made before critical studies on the effects of E15 use were completed.

"We want to be sure that any new fuel will not increase air pollution, harm engines or endanger consumer safety," said Michael Stanton, AIAM's president and CEO. "We are pursuing this legal action reluctantly and remain committed to continuing to work with the administration and other stakeholders to establish prospective, performance-based targets."

Growth Energy, an ethanol industry trade group, petitioned the EPA in March 2009 to raise the limit on ethanol in gasoline from 10 to 15 percent. Several engine product and auto manufacturers as well as others urged EPA to be deliberative in its review process, assuring thorough and adequate testing to assure that E15 would not harm existing products or pose safety risks.

By approving E15 use in a small subset of engines on the road, some argue there is a high risk that consumers will unknowingly or mistakenly put E15 in products for which it has not been approved.

EPA didn't approve the use of E15 for use in small engines such as those in boats, snowmobiles and lawnmowers, but said it could expand approval to vehicles as old as the 2001 model year.

While the decision covers only covers about 65 million vehicles on the roads, it may not immediately lead to E15 at pumps. EPA is also working on a rule to establish labeling procedures so consumers don't use the wrong fuel.

The EPA can't require fuel stations to carry E15.

"Thorough testing has now shown that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in October. "Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America's vehicles, this administration takes those steps."

The effort has been backed by corn-producing states and alternative fuel proponents who have long sought to increase federal rules boosting the amount of ethanol mixed into gasoline.

Congress has required that the nation use 11 billion gallons of ethanol this year and 36 billion gallons by 2022. The problem is E10 won't soak up enough ethanol to meet the mandates.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101220/AUTO01/12200364/Detroit-automakers-join-lawsuit-over-E15-fuel-approval#ixzz18fExqFfC

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So, last time this topic came up, I think someone else on here suggested making E85 more widely available. It is only available in a few certain mid west states. There are a whole slew of vehicles on the roads that are Flex Fuel Capable, yet have no means to use the E85. I cannot recall who might have suggested that, but it sounded awfully logical to me.

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