House Companion Bill On The E15, RVP Issue

  • Thursday, 23 April 2015 00:00

Pressure on the EPA to extend the reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver to E15 is mounting. Yesterday, Iowa Congressman, Rod Blum, introduced a companion bill to the one sponsored by Senators Rand Paul and Chuck Grassley that seeks to remove a major stumbling block in expanding access to E15.

This comes a week after Rep. Adrian Smith of Nebraska introduced similar legislation in Congress.

So that’s two bills in the House and one in the Senate.

The RVP has never had this much attention before.

To recap, 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 summer. The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) says the PSI for E10 increases by 1 in summer but the EPA has since granted a RVP waiver for E10.

While the waiver doesn’t apply to E15, analysis by NREL concludes the RVP for E15 and E10 are indistinguishable. Nonetheless, with no waiver, E15 isn’t sold during the summer months.

Also, the RVP for E15 would be lower if it was blended with reformulated gasoline (RFG) which was a lower RVP than conventional. But due to a lack of availability of RFG in all parts of the country, and the questions of cost, that hasn’t happened.

As such, these bills in favor of extending the RVP waiver to E15 is a positive development. It’s quite unclear at this point what chance these bills have of becoming law but at the very least, a conversation has begun.

And more importantly, there’s now more pressure on the EPA to address this issue.

Two weeks ago, the EPA said it would announce the RFS targets for 2014, 2015 and 2016 by June 1. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess what the targets for 2015 and 2016 will be but there’s a high chance it will be lower than the 15 billion gallons originally stipulated in the RFS.

And chances are, the EPA will say it has to set targets lower than the original RVOs because fuels with higher blends of ethanol like E15 have yet to significantly penetrate the market. Well, extending the RVP waiver to E15 would be a good start in expanding E15’s market share.

Make no mistake, the RVP has been a major impediment in expanding E15. Not many fuel retailers like the idea of selling a fuel that’s only available for part of the year. Moreover, considering that the summer is a high driving season, both consumers and the environment would stand to benefit if E15 was available in summer.

After all, if a fellow governmental agency (NREL) has concluded that the RVP for E15 and E10 are the same, it doesn’t make sense for the EPA to drag its feet on this.