Americans have long counted on our nations petroleum
refineries to provide them with safe, affordable, efficient and
reliable gasoline and diesel fuel for their vehicles and
outdoor power equipment.
Unfortunately, a decision last October by the US Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) to authorize the sale of gasoline containing 15% ethanol
(E15) for late-model vehiclesup from the current limit of
10% ethanol (E10)could reduce the safety of the gasoline
Americans rely on.
Concern about the potential safety threat of a 50% increase
in the amount of ethanol in gasoline motivated many refiners
and the National Petrochemical & Refiners
Association (NPRA), to call on the EPA to conduct thorough and
objective scientific tests on the impact of E15 on gasoline
engines before authorizing use of the fuel.
Unfortunately, the EPA rejected our call and decided to rush
to judgment, under pressure from the ethanol industry. As a result, we
believe the EPA decision approving E15 for limited use was a
disservice to the American consumer.
NPRA is not anti-ethanolour members blend it with
gasoline every day to manufacture the E10 fuel that safely
powers most US vehicles. We simply want to be sure that adding
greater amounts of ethanol to gasoline is safe and will not
cause engine damage.
Following the old proverb to look before you
leap, we believe that learning more about E15 before
approving its use is just common sense.
Because of our concern with consumer protection, NPRA has
filed a lawsuit asking a US appeals court to overturn what we
believe was the EPAs premature and unwise decision to
approve the use of E15 in cars and light trucks for the 2007
and later model years.
Based on experience with leaded and unleaded gasoline years
ago, we know that millions of consumers would no doubt use the
wrong fuel for the wrong vehiclea problem called
misfuelingif E15 becomes widely available.
No matter what warning signs the EPA requires gasoline
retailers to post at their pumps, many consumers would
undoubtedly pump E15 into older cars and trucks and use it in
outdoor power equipment, motorcycles, boats and
Some of this misfueling would be
unintentionalconsumers not paying attention to warning
labels on pumps when they drive up in their older vehicles, or
filling gasoline cans to run their lawnmowers and chain saws
after they fill up their cars without going to a different
Some misfueling would be deliberate because E15 may be
slightly cheaper than E10 gasoline at times, due to variability
in the price of oil. Many consumers would not realize that
ethanol packs less energy than gasoline and, hence, gives them
lower mileage, canceling out the value of a slightly lower
The EPAs decision threatens consumer safety in
numerous ways, even if we assumeand we do notthat
testing has proven conclusively that E15 is safe for cars and
light trucks from 2007 and later model years.
Misfueling could cause costly damages to all sorts of
gasoline engines. Snowmobile engines could conk out in the
middle of the frozen wilderness, and boat engines could fail in
the middle of the oceanstranding people in
life-threatening conditions. Chain saws could overheat and run
when their operators wanted to turn them off, endangering
NPRA members dont want the gasoline they manufacture
to cause these kinds of problems for consumers. Like any
manufacturer, refiners know the truth of the Ford Motor Co.
slogan of the 1990squality is job one. And no
element of quality is more important than safety.
Refiners are concerned that if E15 causes engine
problemsparticularly those that lead to injuries or worse
for consumersa wave of class-action liability lawsuits
could follow, seeking billions of dollars in damages.
Significantly, the ethanol industry has refused to accept
liability for engine damage that could be caused by E15. Ethanol producers are happy to
profit from E15, but leave it to refiners, retailers and others
to remain liable for any damages that E15 might cause.
The good news for consumers is that the EPAs decision
does not require refiners or retailers to blend or sell E15 and
does not require consumers to buy the fuel. Based on initial
opposition to E15not just from refiners and retailers,
but also from the auto, boat, snowmobile and outdoor power
equipment industriesit is not likely that E15 will become
widely available anytime soon.
Nevertheless, NPRA is concerned about harm that E15 could
cause to American consumers should it come into widespread use
without adequate testing.
We are also concerned about procedural irregularities that
the EPA engaged in to cut corners to approve the use of E15
before its use has been justified by scientific testing.
The Clean Air Act clearly requires that any
group petitioning the EPA for a waiver to change the blend of
ethanol in gasoline provide all the information necessary to
approve the waiver. But Growth Energythe ethanol industry
group seeking the E15 waiverfailed to do this, since
substantial additional testing by the EPA and the US Department
of Energy (DOE) was required. We believe yet more testing and
evaluation of data is needed.
The EPA based its E15 partial-waiver decision on
studies submitted to the public rulemaking docket on the day
before the EPA announced the partial waiver, providing no time
for stakeholder review or meaningful public comment on crucial
information used to justify the approval of E15. The EPAs
partial-waiver decision was based almost entirely on data
submitted to the record after the public comment period closed
in 2009. We believe this is a violation of the Administrative
These irregularities are importantnot just minor
If the EPA or any federal agency is allowed to operate
outside the constraints of the law, a dangerous precedent would
be set, usurping the power of our elected representatives in
Congress to pass laws limiting the powers of the executive
branch of government. This would open up a Pandoras box
of problems in the future, no matter who is president and no
matter what political party is in power at any given time.
We believe testing of E15 should continue and be broadened
to determine which enginesif anycan safely use the
higher ethanol blend.
Things not tested for.
DOE testing of E15 simply looked at the ability of the
pollution control equipment of some cars to stand up to E15.
The DOE did not conduct needed testing to determine the impact
of E15 on:
Tolerance of the check-engine light
Durability of other components, such as the fuel
pump and the fuel level sensor
Evaporative emissions from fuel leaks and
permeation, such as vapors leaking out of an idle car with the
engine off and parked outside on a hot and sunny day.
Extensive testing in all of these areas is well
underwaywith the knowledge of both the EPA and
DOEby the privately funded Coordinating Research Council.
However, those tests require more time for completion.
Many issues of public policy are remote and dont
directly affect the majority of Americans. The fate of E15 is
not one of these.
The US Department of Transportation estimates there are
about 255 million cars and passenger trucks on the road in the
US. Millions of Americans own boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles,
lawnmowers, chain saws, and other products that run on
gasoline. So the safety of E15 is an issue that directly
affects just about every American family.
The EPA is being sued by a broad range of organizations that
object to its E15 decision on a number of grounds. These
include claims by the food industry that using more ethanol in
gasoline would drive up corn prices and thus raise the price of
many food items, and claims by environmentalists that expanded ethanol production and use would
harm the environment.
We trust the courts will give the issue of E15 the serious
consideration it deserves.
NPRA believes that, right now, there are just too many
unanswered questions about E15 to allow approval of its use.
Instead of asking the American people to pump first and ask
questions later, the EPA should get more answers first to the
many questions remaining about the safety of E15.
Charles T. Drevna is the president of
the National Petrochemical & Refiners
Association (NPRA), a national trade association with
more than 450 members, including those who own or
operate virtually all US refining capacity and most
all petrochemical manufacturers
in the US. Prior to his election as president in 2007,
Mr. Drevna served as NPRAs executive vice
president and director of policy and planning. Mr.
Drevna has an extensive background in energy,
environmental and natural resource matters, with more
than 36 years of broad energy industry experience in
legislative, regulatory, public policy and marketplace
issues. Prior to
joining NPRA, Mr. Drevna served as director of state
and federal government relations for Tosco, Inc., the
nations largest independent petroleum refiner,
where he was responsible for liaison with Congress,
federal regulatory agencies and state governments. Mr.
Drevna also served as director of government and
regulatory affairs for the Oxygenated Fuels
Association, where he held similar responsibilities,
and as vice president at Jefferson Waterman
International, a Washington, DC-based consulting group
where he specialized in domestic and international
energy issues. Mr. Drevna also served as vice president
of public affairs at the Sun Coal Co., a Knoxville,
Tennessee-based unit of Sun Co., Inc. (Sunoco), and
with the parent company as manager of public policy at its corporate
headquarters in Philadelphia. Mr. Drevna has a
significant background in environmental management that
includes service as director of environmental affairs
for the National Coal Association in Washington, DC,
and as supervisor of environmental quality
control for the Consolidation Coal Co. in Pittsburgh.
He received his BA in chemistry from Washington and
Jefferson College and performed graduate work at