WASHINGTON — The US Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit on Aug. 17 sided with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its partial waiver approval for E15 ethanol fuel for model year 2001 and newer light duty vehicles and all flex fuel vehicles. This represents nearly two-thirds of all vehicles on the road and almost 75 percent of vehicle miles driven.

Currently, the market for ethanol confined to E10 blends has been saturated. Allowing ethanol blends of up to E15 for 2001 and newer vehicles, as well as increasing the availability of higher level ethanol blends up to E85, is expected to provide much-needed market access to help ensure the growth and evolution of the domestic renewable fuels industry, according to ethanol industry advocates.

“Today’s decision is an important step forward in the nation’s quest to diversify our nation’s fuel supply,” said Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association president and chief executive officer. “Adding an E15 option alongside E10 and higher ethanol blends allows consumers to make the fuel decisions that work best for them and their vehicle.

"Ethanol has a 30-year track record of safe and effective use in the market place and that record will continue," Dinneen added. "Allowing for additional ethanol use will help lower prices at the pump, create domestic jobs, and accelerate the commercialization of new biofuel technologies.”

Organizations representing the grocery, auto and petroleum industries filed suit against the EPA in November 2010, arguing that allowing higher blends would increase the use of corn-based ethanol which would drive up the cost of food and fuel and harm vehicle engines. However, the court ruled the groups failed to show they had suffered specific harm as a result of the EPA’s waiver.

Since the initial waiver filing in March 2009, vehicles were tested using E15 for a combined six million miles, health effects data on E15 was collected and approved and a first of its kind misfueling mitigation plan was required and approved in order for retailers to offer E15. Today, at least one station in Lawrence, Kan., is selling E15 under the conditions set by the partial waiver.