The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to the House budget bill on Saturday that defunds the EPA's E15 waivers. It remains to be seen if the amendment will remain part of the budget in a looming and already contentious budget battle.
The move comes after several months of controversy over a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve higher levels of ethanol (E15 or 15% ethanol) in gasoline, specifically for use in 2007 and newer automobiles only.
Until the Oct. 13, 2010 EPA decision the maximum allowable limit of ethanol in gasoline was E10, or 10%. Automobile engines - except for “flex-fuel” engines - were designed and warranted to run on gasoline containing no more than 10% ethanol. The EPA based its E15 approval on the belief that all automobiles 2007 model year and newer would, in fact, operate without harm using E15. That alone is controversial.
What is clear is that some 200 million outdoor power devices will not run well on E15 – products such as chainsaws, lawnmowers, utility vehicles, generators, snow throwers, trimmers, edgers, pruners, chippers, shredders, and blowers. Because most consumers fill a gas canister for their home power equipment at the same time they fill their cars, there could be significant potential for thousands of outdoor power devices to be accidentally filled with E15. This could cause product failure and void the warranty, leaving the consumer liable for repair or replacement costs.
"The Department of Energy’s (DOE) own testing has shown that putting anything other than E10 in non-road, small engines can cause performance irregularities and equipment failure,” said Kris Kiser, executive vice president at the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, in October.
Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK), sponsor of the defunding amendment that passed on Saturday, said, "The EPA has completely ignored calls from lawmakers, industry, environmental and consumer groups to address important safety issues raised by the 50% increase in the ethanol mandate issued over the past year."
Rep. Sullivan said the amendment "put the brakes on E15 for the rest of the fiscal year, giving Congress time to address these questions and ensure consumer safety at the pump.”
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