Rand Paul Wants E15 Sold All Year Long

  • Wednesday, 01 April 2015 00:00

After a barrage of anti-ethanol bills in Congress comes a proposed bill that would actually expand access to E15, courtesy of an unlikely source - Sen. Rand Paul.

The Kentucky senator doesn't exactly have a track record championing ethanol. But together with Iowa's Sen. Chuck Grassley, Paul has introduced legislation that would extend the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) volatility waiver to E15. This in turn would see E15 sold all year long.

First, some background. The RVP is set by the EPA for the summer months to reduce evaporation of fuel from cars and from storage and transfer equipment. The RVP limit is 9.0 PSI during the summertime. According to the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), E10 increases the PSI by 1 but the EPA has granted a RVP waiver for E10. 

The waiver, however, doesn't apply to E15 despite analysis by NREL that concludes the RVP for E15 and E10 are "indistinguishable." As such, E15 isn't sold during the summer months. It's also important to note that the RVP for E15 would be lower if it was blended with reformulated gasoline (RFG) which has a lower RVP than conventional gasoline. But due to a lack of availability of RFG in all parts of the country, that hasn't happened.

As such, Paul and Grassley have introduced the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015 which would extend the RVP waiver for E15.

"The EPA's onerous regulation of fuels is artificially limiting options for consumer and producers and preventing the adoption of new fuel options that could benefit our environment, our economy, and our energy security," Paul said.

Grassley added, "The EPA should be consistent in the way it treats different fuel blends as a matter of fairness and to give consumers more options for fueling their vehicles. The EPA has never acted on its authority to grant a waiver for E15. This bill proposes a legislative fix to fill the void."

After a seemingly endless stream of anti-ethanol legislation being proposed in Congress in the last few months, this bill by Paul and Grassley is not only a welcome relief but one that would go a long way in expanding the availability of E15 not just in Minnesota but in other parts of the country too. Considering that summer is a high driving season, both consumers and the environment would stand to benefit if E15 was made available.

As we've detailed before, E15 is generally sold at 10 cents less per gallon than regular unleaded gasoline while it has been proven that E15 reduces greenhouse gas emissions by a considerable amount. 

The RVP issue has long dogged retailers interested in offering E15. After all, who wants to sell a fuel that can only be sold for part of the year? That being said, demand for E15 has been strong enough that retailers are willing to take the risk. The 18 retailers selling E15 in Minnesota is proof of that.

Moreover, this bill, if it goes through, could crack Big Oil's artificial blend wall and bring ethanol consumption closer to the levels envisioned by the RFS.