Washington, D.C. — The Subcommittee on Environment today held a hearing to examine the scientific, technical, and consumer impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) decision to allow the introduction of mid-level ethanol blends (E15) into the marketplace. Witnesses discussed the impact of E15 on engines and fuel supply infrastructure, and identified areas in which policymakers and the public could benefit from more information on the fuel.

Chairing today’s hearing, Subcommittee Vice Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah) said: “Unfortunately, the more E15 is studied, the more concerns are identified.  In addition to potential widespread impacts on vehicle engines, EPA has led a haphazard transition to E15 usage marked by regulatory confusion, bungled implementation, and a lack of consumer education.”

The EPA issued a partial waiver for E15 on October 13, 2010, allowing the introduction of E15 into the commercial marketplace for use in model year 2007 and newer cars, light-duty trucks, and SUVs. On January 26, 2011, EPA granted another partial waiver for use of E15 in model year 2001 and newer vehicles. The EPA did not grant a waiver for the use of E15 fuel in model years prior to 2001, non-road engines, vehicles, and equipment, motorcycles, or heavy-duty gasoline engines.

In June 2011, EPA issued a misfueling rule intended to mitigate the potential for consumer confusion. The rule mandated a new label to be used on pumps at stations that sell E15, and it encourages, but does not require, measures to educate consumers about E15.

In June 2011, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) sent letters to 14 automobile manufacturers inquiring as to the relationship between vehicle damage resulting from the use of E15 and vehicle warranties.  All 14 companies responded with letters outlining their concerns with E15 use and affirmed the potential for E15 to negatively impact their vehicles and cause engine damage. Furthermore, the manufacturers indicated that their vehicle fleets were not designed to operate on E15, and stated that the warranties would not cover damage resulting from E15.

Witnesses today provided testimony on draft legislation authored by Rep. Sensenbrenner that would require that EPA contract with the National Academy of Sciences to assess the state of the science regarding E15, including research needs, gaps in understanding, recent testing, and consumer education efforts.

The following witnesses testified:

Mr. Robert L. Darbelnet, President and CEO, American Automobile Association (AAA)

The Honorable Wayne Allard, Vice President, Government Relations, American Motorcyclist Association (AMA)

Mr. Mike Leister, Member, Board of Directors, Coordinating Research Council (CRC)