WASHINGTON, April 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday it is seeking public comment on whether to allow a higher level of ethanol to be blended into gasoline.
Growth Energy and more than 50 ethanol manufacturers petitioned the EPA last month to raise the maximum blend level for ethanol in gasoline from 10 percent to as much as 15 percent. [ID:nN06423534]
The current limit of 10 percent has been in place since 1978, but ethanol manufacturers say that level must be increased to accommodate rising federal ethanol production mandates.
The Renewable Fuel Standard enacted by Congress requires 11.1 billion gallons of renewable fuels such as ethanol to be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply this year. The mandate, rising annually, will reach 36 billion gallons in 2022.
With a 10 percent blend rate, the Energy Department estimates that as early as 2013 the amount of ethanol required to be produced will exceed the amount the U.S. vehicle fleet could consume. If the slowing economy continues to cut into gasoline demand, the so-called 10 percent blend wall could be reached a year earlier.
The EPA is currently working with the Energy Department to test how higher levels of ethanol would affect vehicle engines.
The agency will accept input from the public on the ethanol blend issue for 30 days. The agency must make a decision on Growth Energy’s request by Dec. 1. (Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)