Unnecessary regulation stifles sales for many local gas stations

The Environmental Protection Agency’s vapor pressure rules, enforced at the behest of oil producers, are limiting choices at the pump for millions of Americans despite zero scientific evidence.

fuelingAll newer light duty vehicles built since 2001 can fuel up with E15. But from June 1 to Sept. 15, in most areas of the U.S., the EPA regulates the vapor pressure of gasoline sold at gas stations in an effort to reduce evaporative emissions from gas during the summer ozone season. E10 fuel has a waiver which means it can be sold as a registered fuel in the summer months but EPA did not extend that to E15.

“Ironically, E15 has a lower RVP than the fuel 95 percent of drivers are using, so EPA’s unwillingness to change a 25 year-old regulation effectively mandates higher evaporative emissions and higher prices during the busiest driving season of the year,” said Ron Lamberty, senior vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, adding that drivers are forced to purchase lower octane fuel for 5 to 40 cents more than E15.

As gasoline evaporates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) enter the atmosphere and contribute to ozone formation, a problem that is exacerbated by warmer air temperatures. To address this issue, EPA created regulations prohibiting the sale of gasoline with a Reid vapor pressure (RVP, a measure of volatility) that exceeds 9.0 psi in “volatility attainment areas” and 7.8 psi in “volatility non-attainment areas.” These standards apply to all persons from June 1 to Sept. 15 and from May 1 through Sept. 15 for all refiners, importers, distributors, resellers and carriers.

The regulation allows for the sale of E10, a blend of 90% gasoline and 10% ethanol, this is actually what most people are fueling up with, nearly every gallon of transportation fuel in America has a little ethanol in it. E15 is just 5% more ethanol (85% gas, 15% ethanol) and has nearly the exact same Reid vapor pressure rating as E10. The problem is that the EPA waiver specifically limits itself to 10% blends, so in the summer even if your vehicle can fuel up with E15, distributors can’t sell it to you.

It doesn’t make much sense for consumers to lose  a fuel option over what amounts to a labeling issue. During the summer, in 23 out of the last 35 years, gas prices have risen an average of 14.7% from one summer to the next. Why are we artificially limiting our options for lower prices at the pump? E15 is cheaper, has a higher octane rating – making your engine more efficient, and over  75% of the light duty vehicles on the road today (representing more than 85% of the unleaded fuel sold) can use it.

If you want to learn more, take a look at the Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance. There’s no reason we should be taking choice away from American consumers without any scientific backing. Help us share that message!