U.S. transportation relies largely on oil for fuel. Biofuels can be an alternative to oil and are produced from renewable sources, like corn. In 2005, Congress created the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires transportation fuel to contain 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022. The most common U.S. biofuel is ethanol, typically produced from corn in the Midwest, transported by rail, and blended with gasoline as E10 (10 percent ethanol). Use of intermediate blends, such as E15 (15 percent ethanol), would increase the amount of ethanol used in transportation fuel to meet the RFS. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently allowed E15 for use with certain automobiles. GAO was asked to examine (1) challenges, if any, to transporting additional ethanol to meet the RFS, (2) challenges, if any, to selling intermediate blends, and (3) studies on the effects of intermediate blends in automobiles and nonroad engines. GAO examined government, industry, and academic reports; interviewed Department of Energy (DOE), EPA, and other government and industry officials; and visited research centers.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Labor||To reduce uncertainty about the applicability of federal safety regulations, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health to issue guidance clarifying how OSHA's safety regulations on fuel-dispensing equipment should be applied to fuel retailers selling intermediate ethanol blends.||
Closed – Not Implemented
|Environmental Protection Agency||To reduce uncertainty about the potential environmental impacts of storing intermediate ethanol blends at retail fueling locations, the Administrator of EPA should determine what additional research, such as research on the suitability of specific UST components, is necessary to facilitate a transition to intermediate ethanol blends, and work with other federal agencies to develop a plan to undertake such research.||
Closed – Implemented