Following the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of increased ethanol use for newer vehicles, executive branch officials and representatives from stakeholder industries will meet next Tuesday in what will likely be a contentious meeting over this week’s news and an agency decision on older cars expected in November.
The meeting has been scheduled to discuss ongoing research conducted by the Coordinating Research Council, a nonprofit whose board is made up of executives from oil and auto companies. The council is funded mainly by those industries, including $1.5 million per year from the oil and gas industry, according to Jim Williams, a senior manager at the American Petroleum Institute. EPA is also engaged with the research, and the Energy Department helps fund it through its national labs.
Attendees of Tuesday’s meeting will receive reports conducted by on how increased amounts of ethanol affect a vehicle, including engine and catalytic converter durability, Williams said. The reports to be discussed Tuesday are interim drafts and the final report from CRC isn’t expected until sometime next year.
The Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers and API said EPA’s decision on Wednesday to allow 15 percent blended ethanol in gasoline for vehicles made in 2007 and later was premature, given that the CRC report was not complete yet.
But the CRC research is just one of numerous reports both within the government and outside of it that are being conducted on ethanol, something officials from DOE, EPA, and ethanol groups pointed out time and again to National Journal. An Energy Department spokeswoman also stressed that it was important the department does its own independent testing separate from CRC or any other stakeholder group in order to give EPA a breadth of research to cull from. Enough research is complete and conclusive to justify EPA’s decision, the agency and ethanol groups say.
“Thorough testing has now shown that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement on Wednesday regarding her agency’s approval of the E15 waiver, which was petitioned by ethanol group Growth Energy in March of 2009.
The Energy Department and EPA refused to comment on the details of the research being done by CRC. Officials from DOE, the Government Accountability Office, EPA, and state environmental departments are expected at the meeting. On the non-governmental side, ethanol associations including Growth Energy and oil and auto companies are among those expected to attend.
The tension among industries, chiefly the API and automakers versus the ethanol associations, is growing.
“I am not sure how API got in the middle of this testing process, but clearly they are not our biggest supporters and we need to examine any claims that are made by them very closely,” one ethanol official said in an e-mail to a colleague obtained by National Journal.
Proponents of ethanol say the oil and automakers industries are seeking to indefinitely delay increasing the amount of ethanol in gasoline given it digs into their market share. For their part, those industries’ trade groups say they don’t oppose it; they just want complete research. “We’re committed to making this work,” said Bob Greco, API‘s group director for downstream and industry operations.
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