For the second year in a row, the EPA said it would waive air pollution rules and permit summertime sale of E15 — gasoline with a 15% mix of ethanol — on an emergency basis, even though fuel prices are roughly 57 cents a gallon lower than they were a year ago.
EPA administrator Michael Regan said the waiver would shield Americans from fuel supply shortages created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“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,” said Regan in a statement on Friday. The waiver would take effect on Monday.
Farm groups and the ethanol industry applauded the waivers as a boon for motorists and for farmers. More than one-third of the U.S. corn crop and more than 40 percent of American-produced soybean oil is used in biofuels.
“U.S. gasoline inventories are even tighter than they were a year ago, and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war on Ukraine continues to wreak havoc on global fuel supplies,” said Geoff Cooper, chief executive of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The EPA said E15 costs about 25 cents a gallon less than gasoline with the traditional 10 percent blend of ethanol.
Comparatively few motorists buy E15. It is sold at 2,700 stations nationwide, according to RFA figures. A record 1 billion gallons of E15 were sold in 2022, containing 154 million gallons of ethanol. There are more than 145,000 fuel outlets in the nation, mostly at convenience stores. The United States produced 15 billion gallons of ethanol in 2021 and exported 1.24 billion gallons of it.
President Biden authorized summertime sale of E15 a year ago as a stopgap remedy. The U.S. appeals court in Washington ruled in July 2021 that the Trump administration overstepped its legal authority when it approved year-round sales of E15 in 2019. Congress has yet to fix the problem. For years, sales of E15 were banned in two-thirds of the country as a precaution against smog.
Biofuel backers see E15 as a way to expand ethanol share for the fuel market for cars and pickup trucks now that the gasoline market is saturated with E10.
Gasoline prices averaged $3.61 a gallon on Sunday, said the website AAA Gas Prices. A year ago, the average price was $4.18 a gallon, heading for a record of nearly $5.07 last June 14.
The summertime driving seasons begins with the Memorial Day holiday at the end of May. The EPA timed the waiver to take effect on Monday because it fuel terminal ordinarily cannot sell E15 beginning on May 1; the retail cutoff is June 1.
The EPA said it did not expect any impact on air quality from the E15 waiver.