WASHINGTON — A federal law mandating the use of ethanol in gasoline soon could force more production of a blend that uses 15 percent of the corn-based fuel, even though most carmakers won't honor warranties at that level, witnesses said at a House hearing Wednesday.
The Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires increasing amounts of ethanol and other biofuels to be used in gasoline each year, is “a government policy that is bringing us to the brink of a crisis,” said Jack Gerard, president and chief executive officer of the American Petroleum Institute.
Lucian Pugliaresi, president of the Energy Policy Research Foundation, said the mandate to use more ethanol each year is like “a massive excise tax” that is hindering economic growth.
The testimony came at a subcommittee hearing led by Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, who pressed an official from the Environmental Protection Agency to say when a decision will be made on the next requirements concerning ethanol.
Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA's office of transportation and air quality, said a decision will be made sometime this summer on the amount of renewable fuel that must be blended with gasoline for 2013.
Supply vs. demand
The standard mix of ethanol has been 10 percent. But if the EPA requires the use of more gallons of ethanol — and the domestic supply of gasoline doesn't increase — then refiners will have to blend more ethanol to meet the requirement.
Lankford said his 2011 Ford truck has a written warning on the fuel door that the warranty would be voided if fuel with 15 percent ethanol — so-called E15 — is used.
The EPA has said that E15 is safe for most cars made after 2001.
“How many manufacturers disagree with you?” Lankford asked Grundler, of the EPA.
“Most of them,” Grundler said.