The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the Congress, said that it will likely take at least one more year before gasoline with as much as 15% ethanol would be sold at the pump due to health, safety, cost and environmental risks.
According to the government watchdog, nozzles and other equipment that dispense the fuel may leak, leading to problems with safety and performance. The GAO report on July 8 said that the underground storage tanks in these fuel stations could leak when filled with E-15. Notably, research into the potential E-15 use at these fuel stations was federally sponsored.
It’s clear from this report that the EPA's recent decisions to permit the sale of E-15 instead of just E-10, or gasoline with up to 10% ethanol, doesn’t mean that the higher ethanol blend will be offered immediately.
The EPA concluded that the higher ethanol blend is safe for use in vehicles that date back to the 2001 model year. The report stated that some fuel stations may need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for the upgrade of equipment that stores and dispenses E-15.
It said that several challenges were identified to sell intermediate ethanol blends at the retail level. It also revealed that fuel-testing requirements to comply with health and safety regulations could take a year or more to accomplish.
Last fall, the EPA granted a request from ethanol producers to raise ethanol concentrations however, it has not disclosed when fuel manufacturers are expected to apply for E-15 use.
An EPA spokeswoman said that no one, whether manufacturer or imported, has completed a registration application for E-15. Beginning last fall, the EPA permitted higher ethanol blends as a move to help lower the U.S.' dependence on foreign oil as well as to cut greenhouse gas emissions.