Ethanol Testing Delayed for 2001-2006 Cars, EPA Says

Testing fuel with higher levels of ethanol in cars made for 2001 through 2006 has been delayed and now will be completed by the end of December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

The Energy Department notified the agency that the tests are incomplete, the EPA said today in an e-mailed statement, without elaborating. The agency will decide whether to let the cars use gasoline blended with as much as 15 percent ethanol, known as E15, after tests results are reviewed, the agency said.

EPA said in October a decision on the higher proportion of the corn-based additive was likely this month. The agency has granted a request from ethanol producers to permit E15 in vehicles made for 2007 and later, up from 10 percent. Growth Energy, an industry trade group that is requesting E15 approval, said postponing a decision for 2001-2006 cars is prudent.

“The problem was with the testing process, not the fuel,” Tom Buis, chief executive officer of the Washington-based Growth Energy, said in a statement. The delay shows “how committed EPA is to the integrity of the testing. They are doing this right.”

The group, which has said E15 will be shown to be safe for use, said it was told by the EPA that one of vehicle needs to be retested because it wasn’t properly serviced. All fuels, including gasoline, failed in the vehicle, Growth Energy said.

Energy Department officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for information about the testing.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., the second-largest U.S. ethanol producer behind closely held Poet LLC, is among companies urging the EPA to raise the ethanol limit for an industry struggling after at least a dozen companies filed for bankruptcy protection since 2008.

Oil companies, automakers and environmental groups say increasing ethanol in fuel may damage engines, boost food prices and worsen air quality, and refiners and convenience stores that sell fuel may be reluctant to market the new blend.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kim Chipman in Washington at kchipman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net.

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