ETHANOL:

Industry group urges EPA to drop 'alarmist' label for E15

Gasoline blends containing up to 15 percent ethanol should not carry "unnecessarily alarmist" labels like one proposed by U.S. EPA in a November proposed rulemaking, an ethanol industry trade group has told the agency.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) filed the comments on a proposed rule designed to reduce the likelihood that consumers will fuel vehicles and power equipment with higher-ethanol gasoline blends ranging up to 15 percent ethanol (E15).

EPA recently granted a partial waiver to allow the sale of E15, saying the fuel was safe for use in model year 2007 and newer vehicles but that full test data were not yet available on older vehicles or on equipment like chain saws, boats and lawn mowers that are fueled with gasoline.

In a response filed on the last day in the 60-day comment window, RFA sketched an alternative to EPA's proposed label for E15 pumps.

While EPA's suggested label says "CAUTION!" in bold letters at the top and warns, "This fuel might damage other vehicles," RFA urged regulators to use a stripped-down label without that language.

"The proposed label's shortcomings include leading, unscientific statements, confusing technical information and unwarranted warnings," RFA told the agency.

"The label as written will seriously impair long-term progress towards achieving the country's stated goals for renewable fuels. It will unnecessarily promote skepticism and concern over any future approval for E15 and create the misperception that E15 is an inferior fuel."

RFA maintains that EPA's E15 testing -- carried out in collaboration with the Energy Department -- showed the fuel's safety and effectiveness in all engines, both vehicle and off-highway, and that the agency's split of the marketplace by model year is unscientific and will cause consumer confusion.

Given the lack of data showing E15 will damage other engines, the group said, "it is simply inappropriate for EPA to require labels that infer there is an issue that has not been conclusively demonstrated."

Ethanol critics also argue that the testing was unscientific, but they criticize it for using an overly small sample size, among other issues, and say EPA's approval of E15 for any vehicles was overly aggressive.

In its comments to EPA, RFA also argued that gasoline marketers should be free to determine the size, shape and color of the E15 label. The group said marketers will be "highly motivated to avoid misfueling," leading them to use appropriate labels.

Other groups have warned that potential customers will be highly motivated to use E15 blends in unapproved vehicles, though, because ethanol typically sells at a slightly lower price than gasoline, so blended fuel has a cheaper pump price than conventional fuel.

The group also warned against requiring new labels for fuels already in the commercial marketplace, namely 10 percent ethanol blends (E10) or 85 percent blends (E85).

Click here to read RFA's comments.

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