U.S. EPA issues waiver to expand E15 sales into May
The EPA has issued an emergency fuel waiver to allow E15 gasoline to be sold during the summer driving season — a move that was cheered by ag and renewable energy groups.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an emergency fuel waiver to allow E15 gasoline — gasoline blended with 15% ethanol — to be sold during the summer driving season — a move that was cheered by ag and renewable energy groups.
The EPA in a statement said the action is motivated at providing relief at the pump from supply issues created by Russia's attacks in Ukraine. The agency said current estimates indicate that E15 is about 25 cents per gallon cheaper than E10, on average.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to protecting Americans from fuel supply challenges resulting from the ongoing war in Ukraine by ensuring consumers have more choices at the pump,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement. “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.”
E15 cannot be sold in about two-thirds of the country from May 1 to Sept. 1. POET, the world’s largest producer of biofuel, explained in a statement that federal regulations drafted before E15 was available limit the vapor pressure of gasoline during the "summer ozone season." However, studies have found E15 to have lower evaporative emissions than standard summertime gasoline, which typically contains 10% ethanol.
Renewable fuels advocates have pushed making E15 permanently available all year , but the waiver issued on Friday, April 28, is the statutory maximum 20-day waiver for such an emergency move. An EPA statement explained that the Clean Air Act allows the EPA administrator, in consultation with the Department of Energy, to temporarily waive certain fuel requirements to address shortages, and more waivers likely will follow.
"EPA will continue to monitor the supply with industry and federal partners, and the Agency expects to issue new waivers effectively extending the emergency fuel waiver until such time as the extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstances due to the war in Ukraine are no longer present," the statement said.
“Today’s announcement is a win for drivers across the nation, who can rest easier knowing that they’ll have access to savings on lower-carbon E15 this coming summer,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, the nation's largest biofuels trade association.
Skor said Growth Energy has been advocating for such a move to save consumers money and to reduce carbon emissions and pollution. She thanked "our bipartisan champions in Congress, Midwest governors, President Biden, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack for their continued attention to higher biofuel blends" while also advocating for a permanent fix that allows nationwide year-round sales of E15.
American Coalition for Ethanol CEO Brian Jennings echoed Skor's comments.
“We are grateful EPA intends to issue new waivers effectively covering the 2023 summer season as it did in 2022, but a permanent remedy to expand consumer access for E15 long term is still necessary," Jennings said in a statement. "This annual drama of threatened summertime E15 sales, followed by last-minute reprieves, has got to end. It's wearing on retailers selling E15 today and is a major reason more marketers aren't offering it. Consumers could be saving 5 to 15 cents per gallon and emissions could be reduced if Congress would fix the problem and pass legislation making E15 legal year-round."
"EPA’s action allowing summertime E15 will help extend gasoline supplies, prevent fuel shortages, protect air quality and reduce carbon emissions," said Geoff Cooper, Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO.
“Boosting the nation’s available fuel supply with E15 is better for consumers, the environment, and the economy,” POET Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Joshua Shields said in a statement. “E15 can help shield Americans from gasoline supply shortages and price spikes. In addition, E15 reduces smog-forming emissions, which can mean cleaner air in congested urban areas most impacted by air pollution. E15 also supports jobs, creates value for family farmers, and drives economic growth in rural communities across America.”
Farm groups also applauded the move.
“We appreciate Administrator Regan’s timely action to prevent a disruption in E15 availability,” National Corn Growers Association President Tom Haag said in a statement. “EPA’s action will help address fuel supply constraints and ensure drivers continue to have access to a lower-cost fuel choice that cuts emissions.”
“Today’s announcement from EPA is good news for farmers and consumers heading into the summer travel season," National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said in a statement. "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. This is a win for everyone.”
"By lifting restrictions, consumers will now have access to this lower-cost option at the gas pump, and the resulting demand for homegrown fuels will support Iowa’s farm families and rural communities, including the 46,000 jobs tied to the biofuels industry," said Iowa Farm Bureau President Brent Johnson.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement said the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to make "critical investments in infrastructure to expand biofuels' availability for drivers at thousands more retailers through competitive grants we expect to announce soon."
"By allowing the summer sale of E15 at gas pumps nationwide, President Biden is supporting the creation of good-paying jobs and economic growth, particularly in rural and farm communities," he said.