The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) expects to make a final determination in mid-2010 regarding a potential increase in the current 10% allowable ethanol content in fuel, the so-called “blend wall”.


In May 2009, Growth Energy, a biofuels industry association headed up by General Wesley Clark, requested a waiver that would allow the use of up to 15 % ethanol in gasoline. As mandated by the Clean Air Act, EPA was required to respond to the waiver request by December 1, 2009. The EPA responded earlier this week in a letter explaining that despite not completing all the applicable tests, early test results on 2 vehicles indicated that engines in newer (i.e. later than 2001) vehicles could probably handle an ethanol blend higher than the current limit. The EPA’s final determination will follow completion of testing on 19 vehicles (the number recommended by the Department of Energy (“DOE”)) which may take another 6 months.


The EPA recognizes that the limit on blends must be raised to achieve the renewable fuel mandate of 36 billion gallon by 2022. EPA has been reviewing public comments and working with DOE to determine the feasibility of a higher ethanol blend. Concerns include the impact on engine component longevity when a higher blend is used long term and appropriate labeling at the fuel pump. 


Full text of the letter: