"This is another example of oil companies unnecessarily scaring people, and it's just flat-out wrong," said Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry group.
The dispute over E15 is the latest flashpoint in a long-standing battle over the Renewable Fuel Standard, approved by Congress in 2005 and amended in 2007. The law requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of ethanol into gasoline each year as a way to decrease reliance on fossil fuels and lower greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a 16.5 billion-gallon production requirement for ethanol and other gasoline alternatives this year, up from 15.2 billion gallons last year. By 2022, the law calls for more than double that amount.
Biofuel advocates and supporters in Congress say the law has helped create more than 400,000 jobs, revitalized rural economies and helped lower foreign oil imports by more than 30 percent while reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
But the oil industry, refiners and some environmental groups say the standard imposes an unnecessary economic burden on consumers. Using automotive fuel that comes from corn also has significant consequences for agriculture, putting upward pressure on food prices, critics say.
"The ever increasing ethanol mandate has become unsustainable, causing a looming crisis for gasoline consumers," said the API's Greco. "We're at the point where refiners are being pressured to put unsafe levels of ethanol in gasoline, which could damage vehicles, harm consumers and wreak havoc on our economy."
Along with the E15 court case, the API and refiners have swarmed Capitol Hill and the White House to try to have the current mandate waived or repealed.
Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, which represents refineries, accused the EPA of putting politics ahead of science.