EPA Extends Sales of 15% Ethanol Blend to Aug. 9

Administrator issues 3rd waiver of year, citing Ukraine war and OPEC production cuts
15% ethanol blend sales extended with EPA waiver
Photograph: Shutterstock

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday issued its third emergency fuel waiver of the year, extending sales of gasoline with a 15% ethanol blend 20 days to Aug. 9 for areas of the country without a Reformulated Gasoline Program.

The EPA’s second waiver was set to expire July 20. The agency issued the first waiver in April, extending sales of a 15% ethanol blend to May 20.

While government regulations prohibit sales of a 15% ethanol-blend fuel during summer months in some areas due to concerns about ozone pollution from emissions, the EPA can overrule this regulation with a waiver.

Allowing sales of ethanol-blended gasolines helps to keep gas prices lower. AAA said the national average gas price for regular was $3.580 per gallon on July 20, over 60 cents more than the average price for a 15% ethanol blend was $2.957 per gallon. A year ago, the average price for regular was $4.467 per gallon, AAA said.

The EPA cited the war in Ukraine as the factor for the need to extend the waiver. “Domestic and international sanctions and public pressure on Russia have significantly disrupted the supply and distribution of purchasable barrels of crude oil and petroleum products in the global market for the U.S. and like-minded countries,” said Michael Regan, administrator of the EPA, in a letter to governors announcing the waiver.

Regan also noted “an unexpected reduction in crude oil output by OPEC+ member countries of  about 1.2 million barrels per day, further constraining this market.” Since November 2022, oil output has dropped 3.7 million barrels per day, an amount equivalent to 3.7% of global oil demand, Regan said.

With global liquid-fuel consumption rising, even small reductions in supply are noticeable, Regan said. “Total U.S. gasoline stocks have been at or below the bottom of the five-year range since early 2022,” he said.  Low gasoline stocks make it more difficult for the U.S. to absorb disruptions to the fuel supply chain, he said.

EPA determined it is in the public interest to address the supply constraints by extending the waiver to allow for continued sales of a gasoline-blend with up to 15% ethanol “No significant change in air pollution is projected to occur as a result of this action,” Regan said in the waiver.

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