With 10 percent ethanol blended fuel having become a fact of life at the pumps over the last decade, it now looks like E15 might become a reality too, possibly as early as this summer.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it has given provisional approval of health effects testing of E15 by Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association, which clears a major hurdle in moving the blended fuel close to commercial acceptance. According to a statement issued from the EPA, “our evaluation concludes that RFA/Growth submitted data and analysis would satisfy Tier 1 and Tier 2 testing requirements for registration.”

Having been granted testing approval, ethanol suppliers can now register E15 with the EPA in order to sell the fuel. That said, some obstacles still remain, namely the fact that suppliers and retailers need to make sure they register with the EPA and also that a proper miss-fuel mitigation plan is developed.

As it stands, the E15 waiver will only cover 2001 model year and newer vehicles and will not cover off-road or marine engines. Once this mitigation plan is completed, vendors who have registered with the EPA will be able to start selling E15 at gas stations in states that have allowed it.

However, there are some that remain opposed to selling E15 commercially without further studies being conducted. In fact, based on pressure from groups such as the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute, Friends of the Earth, the National Milk Council and the American Baker’s Association, the House of Representatives’ Science Committee recently approved a bill that would prevent the EPA from granting commercial use rights for E15 without further investigation.

If E15 clears these hurdles and shows up at the pumps this summer, it will no doubt help alleviate predicted high fuel prices for many motorists, since Ethanol based fuels sell for around 20 percent less than regular gasoline, according to Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis.

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