EPA Allows May Sales of E15

Biden administration issues emergency waiver due to Russia-Ukraine war
alternative fuels
Photograph: Shutterstock

Fuel stations can sell E15 gasoline from May 1 to May 20 in all 50 states after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday issued an emergency fuel waiver to allow the sale of the gasoline blended with 15% ethanol in areas without a Reformulated Gasoline Program.

The agency said it expects to issue new waivers extending E15 sales into the summer, according to a news release. It’s unclear when these will be announced.

Supply issues stemming from the continuing Russia-Ukraine conflict prompted the EPA to issue the waiver and allow the sale of E15 to ease prices at the pump. E15 often is priced 25 cents lower than E10, a gasoline blend with less ethanol, the EPA said. Last year, the average savings on E15 was 16 cents per gallon but rose to about $1 a gallon at some fuel stations, said biofuels producer POET.

“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 Regan said. “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.”

Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based POET was among the organizations applauding the EPA’s announcement. Trade organizations NATSO and SIGMA also support year-round sales of E15 and have criticized the Biden administration about over-emphasizing electric vehicles at this point. 

“The Biden administration’s decision will keep E15 flowing when Americans need it most,” said POET Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Joshua Shields. “With tight fuel supplies, rising prices, and poor air quality looming this summer, continued access to E15 puts a cleaner and more affordable fuel option within reach. We’re grateful to President Biden, EPA Administrator Regan, and House and Senate biofuel champions for working together to protect America’s fuel supply, ensure continued savings at the pump, and promote cleaner air for all.”

The EPA’s Clean Air Act allows for temporary waivers from summer restrictions of E15 sales in the two-thirds of the country where sales are restricted due to concerns about hot weather triggering a vapor pressure issue thought to affect air quality.

In other parts of the country with a Reformulated Gasoline Program, E15 can be sold year round.

POET said research by the University of California Riverside contradicts allegations that E15 contributes to smog and instead indicate the biofuel reduces volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and particulates thought to lead to smog.

The federal rules limiting the vapor pressure of gasoline during the summer season when ozone levels often rise were drafted prior to E15’s release to the market. It said E15 has lower evaporative emissions than standard gasoline in the summer.

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