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Amy Harder
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Amy Harder
March 7, 2014, 7:52 a.m.

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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