By Tim Rudnicki, Esq.
Give consumers choice at the gas pump! That’s what the June 24th decision by the U.S. Supreme Court means as it let stand an August 2012 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals. Here’s the basis for my observation about how and why these legal issues translate into good news for consumers.
In brief, the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals was about standing. Put another way, the issue in the Grocery Manufacturers Association vs Environmental Protection Agency case was whether the parties representing the food, petroleum and engine manufacturers experienced some harm that the Court could fix. The simple answer is this: there was nothing for the Court to fix because the parties had no harm traceable to E15 (15% ethanol added to 85% gasoline - only 5% more ethanol than is now contained in regular gasoline)!
What were the food, petroleum and engine groups trying to argue? To paraphrase the Court, the engine group used a “hypothetical chain of events” and provided “almost no support for their assertion that E15 ‘may’ damage the engines they have sold” as the group cited one internal study that talked about “potential vehicle damage” from use of E15. (Page 9). The petroleum group made unsubstantiated claims about potential misfueling problems. (Pages 11-12). As for the food group, the Court found their “interest in low corn prices is much further removed from” the petroleum and engine groups who had no basis for a claim. (Page 17).
So where does this leave matters for consumers who want to use E15? The Appeals Court reviewed the process used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as it approved the use of E15. For instance, the record shows the U.S. EPA was meticulous in its assessment of test results. That’s why the U.S. EPA made two approvals. First, the U.S. EPA “approved the introduction of E15 for use in light-duty motor vehicles from model-year 2007 and later.” (Page 4). Then, only after the U.S. EPA obtained “further results from Department of Energy (DOE) tests that measured the effects of ethanol blends on the durability of engine catalysts...” (Pages 4-5) did the U.S. EPA expand the approval to use E15 for vehicles built within the last 12 years.
Here is a key take away point: E15 was carefully tested and is ready for use in approved motor vehicles (2001 and newer, approximately 80% of the vehicles on the road today). E15 has been tested over 6 million miles, tested more than any other fuel in history!
To sum up, current U.S. law requires increasing amounts of renewable fuel to be made available to consumers. With higher blends of ethanol and other biofuels, we can decrease dependence on finite fossil fuels. Using homegrown renewable ethanol and other biofuels also improves air quality, keeps thousands of jobs in Minnesota and helps consumers save dollars at the pump.