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Ahead of the Curve Auto Supplier Blog

August 27, 2012

Court Dismisses Challenge on Higher Ethanol Content in Gasoline

A recent ruling by a Federal Court of Appeals has opened the door to use of a higher ethanol content fuel, despite claims by the auto industry that the fuel could harm engines. In 2010 and 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted waivers to the ethanol industry to increase the allowable ethanol content in fuel to 15 percent (E15). The waivers approved introduction of E15 for use in model-year 2001 and newer light-duty motor vehicles and engines. Several industry groups, including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, challenged the rule, claiming that E15 could harm engines and emission-control devices and systems, which could lead to warranty claims and safety-related claims against engine manufacturers. The groups also claimed that consumers will improperly use E15 in pre-2001 vehicles and non-approved equipment, which could cause damage to those engines. Petroleum and food industry groups also challenged the EPA’s waivers. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that none of the industry groups had standing to challenge the EPA’s action. With respect to the auto groups, the court stated that the claimed injuries were too speculative, because the industry groups failed to introduce evidence of a substantial probability that E15 would cause engine damage. Further, it was speculative to assume that consumers with pre-2001 vehicles would “misfuel” by improperly using E15. Finally, even if they did misfuel, it was unlikely that such consumers would bring a lawsuit against the engine manufacturers and prevail for an injury caused by the consumers’ own misuse of the fuel. Because the industry groups failed to demonstrate a concrete, probable injury, the lawsuit was dismissed. This ruling paves the way for ethanol producers to begin manufacturing E15.

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