Supreme Court Sides With Ethanol Over Oil

  • Logan Layden

Spencer T. / Flickr

It’s a big week for the U.S. Supreme Court, with decisions coming on gay marriage, affirmative action, and voting rights. But renewable energy advocates have already notched a victory today.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of fuel containing up to 15% ethanol in 2010, and today, the court decided not to hear a challenge to that decision. From Jennifer A. Dlouhy’s story at

Tom Buis, the CEO of Growth Energy, which originally sought E15′s approval, called the move “a true victory for the American biofuels industry” as well as consumers, the economy and the environment.

Bob Dinneen, the president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said the Supreme Court’s decision “ends a long and drawn out petroleum industry effort to derail the commercialization of E15.”

Drivers are accustomed to seeing fuel with up to 10 percent ethanol, which the EPA has approved for most gasoline-powered vehicles. But the EPA only approved the E15 mix for 2001 and later models. That’s one of the reasons the American Petroleum Institute is against it:

The oil industry argues that E15 has not been proved safe, there are high “misfueling” risks that could cause filling station owners to face liability when the fuel is inadvertently pumped into older cars and there is a limited market for the mix, especially since some automakers have warned drivers that using the fuel will void their warranty.

So, owners of older cars will have to be on the lookout for E15, and avoid it. Owners of newer vehicles should be cautious, too, if you ask most car manufacturers, and Oklahoma U.S. Rep. James Lankford, an outspoken critic of increasing ethanol blends, who’s held subcommittee meetings on the subject. From

Lankford said his 2011 Ford truck has a written warning on the fuel door that the warranty would be voided if fuel with 15 percent ethanol — so-called E15 — is used.

The EPA has said that E15 is safe for most cars made after 2001.

“How many manufacturers disagree with you?” Lankford asked Grundler, of the EPA.

“Most of them,” Grundler said.

The first pumps opened in Kansas last year, only a handful of Oklahoma stations offer E15.