The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just granted several retailers permission to start selling E15 (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline) at fuel stations all across the country.
The EPA has made it clear that it will not require gas station to sell the blend. Those who choose to offer it will need to clearly mark the pump dispensing it with an orange label in order to let consumers know what they are putting in their fuel tank.
The EPA's approval doesn't mean that gas stations will offer E15 immediately. There are still several hurdles to clear before widespread distribution can begin, and blending the fuel is expected to take a sizable chunk of time. A more precise timeframe was not given.
The biofuel's opponents have already voiced their criticism of the EPA's decision.
"The EPA may be willing to fast-track E15 at the ethanol lobby's request, but I believe we have a duty to get the science right," said Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner in a statement. "At a minimum, we should block this fuel until examined by an entity with no financial stake, such as the National Academy of Sciences."
Although E10 (10 percent ethanol, 90 percent gasoline) has been on sale for decades, many automakers have been skeptical about E15. General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, Volvo, Hyundai, Kia and BMW all spoke out against the fuel last year, indicating that burning it could result in engine damage and void new car warranties.
E15 supporters bill it as a massive step forward in reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil. Furthermore, the EPA adamantly believes that E15 won't harm engines as long as it is not used in vehicles built before 2001, or in recreational vehicles such as boats and RVs.
"E15 has undergone the most vigorous testing and regulatory process of any fuel approved by the federal government," affirmed Bob Dineen, the president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.