Court rules against Big Oil in dispute over ethanol blend

Despite protests from the oil industry, a federal appeals court on Tuesday refused to allow a challenge to an Environmental Protection Agency decision encouraging more ethanol to be blended into gasoline.

The American Petroleum Institute, AAA and food producers, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Tyson Foods, all have opposed the agency’s move to allow up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline blends. Nearly all gasoline sold in the country is blended with up to 10 percent ethanol.

The EPA in 2010 approved the sale of E15 in the United States, and the fuel is currently safe for use in vehicles with model years 2001 and later, according to the agency. But opponents argue that the fuel is unsafe for vehicles that weren’t designed to use E15 and that ethanol production creates enormous new demand for corn, driving up food prices for humans and animals.

Read more: Debate continues on long-term impact of E15

Opponents had challenged the EPA’s ruling in court, but the case was thrown out by a federal judge because the parties involved had not detailed how they were affected by the E15 decision. Their argument for another hearing was refused Tuesday for the same reason by a three-judge panel in for the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

“We’re disappointed in the court’s decision not to hear the case, and we are weighing our legal options,” API spokesman Carlton Carroll said in an email. “EPA approved E15 even though research by automakers, the oil industry and the government showed potential mechanical and infrastructure problems with E15 that could also lead to serious safety and environmental problems.”

The Department of Energy and the EPA argue that research on E15 backed by the oil industry and automakers has been flawed and has insisted that the fuel is safe to run in vehicles made since 2001.

E15 currently is available for sale at fewer than a dozen refueling stations nationwide, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who wrote a dissenting opinion on the appeals court decision, argued that the case should be heard because E15 had substantial implications for both food and fuel producers.

Kavanaugh said “the food producers’ economic interests are directly affected by the increased demand for corn caused by EPA’s E15” decision.