EPA allows gasoline with higher ethanol blend during summer

Associated Press
Fuel stations throughout the country will be able to sell gasoline blended with 15% ethanol during the summer under an emergency waiver issued Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) ‒ Fuel stations throughout the country will be able to sell gasoline blended with 15% ethanol during the summer under an emergency waiver issued Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency in a move that could reduce prices at the pump and boost demand for the Midwest-based ethanol industry.

"Allowing E15 sales during the summer driving season will not only help increase fuel supply, but support American farmers, strengthen U.S. energy security, and provide relief to drivers across the country,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

National Farmers Organization President Rob Larew said the announcement was a win for everyone.

“(This) is good news for farmers and consumers heading into the summer travel season. Drivers will see increased choice and competition, farmers will see more opportunities for their bottom line, and we’ll all be one step further in reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Larew said.

In March, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin and a group of Democratic and Republican colleagues called on the Biden administration to permit the year-round sale of E15 fuel in 2023. Senator Baldwin also joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing legislation to allow the year-round, nationwide sale of ethanol blends higher than 10%.

She has long advocated for more permanent biofuel regulations to help lower fuel prices, support farmers and producers, and provide the needed certainty in fuel markets.“American biofuels are a homegrown energy solution that support Wisconsin’s farmers and producers, help drive down the price at the pump, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Baldwin“I applaud the Biden administration’s action to ensure cleaner E15 fuel is available this summer, supporting jobs in rural communities and moving our Made in Wisconsin economy forward.”

Most gasoline sold in the U.S. is blended with 10% ethanol and the higher 15% blend hasn't been allowed in the summer because of concerns it could worsen smog during hot weather.

The EPA said its analysis shows allowing sales of the higher blend shouldn't have a significant impact on air quality.

The agency estimated that E15 blends cost about 25 cents less per gallon at the pump than E10 blends.

The U.S. Department of Energy has found that vehicles will travel 3% to 4% fewer miles on E10 and 4% to 5% less on E15 than on 100% gasoline.

“Last summer, E15 saved drivers $0.16 per gallon on average, and up to a dollar per gallon in some regions. It delivered those savings while reducing carbon emissions and smog-forming pollution. America's biofuel producers are ready to meet the demand for cleaner, more affordable choices at the pump so more drivers can enjoy those same benefits in the months ahead," said said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor.

“The U.S. market is well supplied with gasoline, which EIA data make clear," Chet Thompson, the organization's president and CEO, said in a statement. "Therefore, we’re anxious to see how EPA is going to justify this decision in light of the statutory limitations and the agency’s own understanding of emergency criteria, which require a finding of inadequate domestic supply in a specific geographic area.”

Ethanol policy is especially important in the Midwest, where most of the roughly 200 renewable fuel plants are located. In 2022, those refineries produced over 15.4 billion gallons of ethanol, and the industry used about 45% of the nation's corn crop, roughly one-third of which was grown in Iowa and Illinois.

The industry has pushed for years to allow year-round sales of E15. In March, the EPA proposed to permanently allow the higher blends in eight Midwestern states beginning in 2024.

“EPA’s action allowing summertime E15 will help extend gasoline supplies, prevent fuel shortages, protect air quality and reduce carbon emissions,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.