Today the Supreme Court rejected a challenge by the American Petroleum Institute to block sales of E15 but left in place a federal appeals court ruling that dismissed challenges by the oil industry group and trade associations representing food producers, restaurants and others. Ethanol is cheaper and cleaner but could damage our older cars and motorcycles. E15 is 15 percent ethanol, well above the current 10 percent norm. It's currently sold in fewer than two dozen stations in the Midwest but could spread everywhere as the Feds consider whether to require more ethanol in gasoline.
There's heavy lobbying oil and ethanol interests from Congress to the White House and the Supreme Court including from Growth Energy, an ethanol industry group. The API called the decision a loss for consumers because the EPA approved E15 before vehicle testing was complete and E15 may cause significant mechanical problems in millions of cars on the road today.
The Renewable Fuel Standard law was approved by Congress in 2005 and requires refiners to blend increased amounts of ethanol into gasoline each year. The EPA proposes a 16.5 billion-gallon production requirement for ethanol and other gasoline alternatives this year, up from 15.2 billion gallons last year. By 2022, the law will call for more than double that amount, and the API says the law is causing a looming crisis for gasoline consumers with unsafe levels of ethanol which could damage vehicles and harm consumers.
Old-car lobbyists (SEMA/SAN), the API and refiners are trying to have the law waived or repealed. A station in Lawrence, Kan., was the first in the nation to sell E15 last year but Phillips 66 says it can't sell E15 from black fuel hoses. The AAA, for now, sides against E15 and says the government should halt E15 sales until further testing shows which cars can safely use E15. Another E15 opponent is the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers with 12 major car makers saying E15 gas is more corrosive and that older cars were never designed to use E15 and that over time it could create significant engine problems, citing engine problems discovered during a study last year.
For now, E15 is sold through about 20 stations in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.