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EPA MAKES PLANS TO EASE TRANSITION TO SUMMER FUEL

Release Date: 03/15/2001
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FOR RELEASE: THURSDAY, MARCH 15, 2001

EPA MAKES PLANS TO EASE TRANSITION TO SUMMER FUEL

Cathy Milbourn 202-564-7824 or e-mail: milbourn.cathy@epa.gov



Administrator Christie Whitman today told the Speaker of the House and members of the Illinois and Wisconsin Congressional delegations that EPA is very close to reaching a decision that should help reduce costs for blending ethanol into gasoline.

“I am very concerned about the potential for price increases caused by many different factors such as increased demand and pipeline disruptions. And we don’t want to see this happen again,” said Administrator Christine Whitman. “To help this, I recently directed EPA staff to finalize an upward adjustment to the VOC standard. Based on preliminary data, we believe we will be able to adjust the standard closer to 0.3 pounds per square inch Reid vapor pressure which will provide greater flexibility than the .2 pounds that was originally proposed.”

The Agency hopes this action will be finalized by the end of the week and will help keep prices under control based on adjustments to the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) standard for ethanol reformulated gasoline. Chicago and Milwaukee saw gasoline prices as high as $2.75 per gallon of gas last summer. Adjusting the rule will make it less expensive to blend ethanol into reformulated gasoline, which should also help boost supply. If the adjustment is made, it will apply only to Chicago and Milwaukee, the areas of the country that use ethanol exclusively in reformulated gasoline.

When added to gasoline, ethanol increases the evaporation rate, causing more VOC emissions, but ethanol reduces carbon monoxide (CO) emissions. Both pollutants play a role in ozone formation. While there will be an increase in VOCs they will be offset by the concurrent CO reductions. Air quality will not be compromised by this change. The region will receive credit toward their carbon monoxide reductions associated with ethanol formulated gasoline.

EPA has also been meeting with Midwest refiners over the past two weeks to evaluate problems they experienced last year with swapping fuels in tanks to provide cleaner summer fuel for the ozone (smog) season. “We don’t expect any problems this year and we will be monitoring the situation closely,” said Whitman. “If individual companies experience unforseen difficulties, we will provide flexibility to ease the transition to summer blends.”

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