WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule to allow the sales of gasoline with a higher ethanol blend in certain states in the Midwest.
The proposal is in response to a request from governors of corn-producing states who requested the EPA lift a summertime ban on E15 fuel to lower gas prices and help farmers.
If adopted, the proposal would take effect in summer 2024, one year later than the governors requested, according to a Reuters report.The EPA will hold a public hearing for the proposed rule in late March or early April.
Those in favor of the proposal state that increasing the volume of available fuel in the summer would contribute to lower prices at the pump. Others have voiced concern about a piecemeal approach to growing E15 sales that could result in distribution challenges. Both the biofuel and oil industries have expressed support for a national policy regarding the sale of E15.
Governors of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio wrote to the EPA requesting a permanent waiver to sell E15 on a year-round basis in May 2022, as Convenience Store News reported.
INDUSTRY ASSOCIATIONS REACT
Growth Energy supported the proposal but criticized the delay in implementation.
"We are pleased to see EPA make progress on the request submitted last year by Govs. Reynolds, Evers, Noem, Pritzker, Walz, DeWine and Parson, as well as former Gov. Ricketts and with the support of Nebraska Gov. Pillen," said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. "We are grateful to EPA Administrator Regan for his steadfast efforts to preserve access to affordable, domestic biofuels, but we're disappointed that the EPA's proposal doesn't provide a fix for 2023 and the coming summer driving season.
"There's no denying that the simplest, best solution to unnecessary and outdated restrictions on year-round access to E15 is a permanent, federal legislative fix. American families need the cost savings that E15 provides," Skor continued. "Ethanol producers need a robust fuel market to reliably make new investments that create jobs and lower carbon emissions. Retailers need marketplace certainty to fully commit to offering this fuel choice to their customers. Securing parity between E10 and E15 nationwide would address all three of these concerns."
Skor noted that drivers have been able to purchase E15 every summer since 2019, allowing drivers to save an average of 16 cents per gallon, and that the conditions that prompted the EPA to issue its first emergency waiver in summer 2022 are still impacting fuel markets.
However, the American Petroleum Institute (API) stated that adopting the rule change would require major changes to the fuel infrastructure system, as high-ethanol fuel grades require different equipment. The API projected up to two years past 2024 would be needed to minimize impacts on consumers.
Meanwhile, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers claimed that implementing a new fuel blend in select states in 2024 would result in issues such as tighter fuel supplies in the Midwest during the summer, as not every refinery, pipeline and terminal serving the region has the ability to easily produce, transport and store E15.
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) expressed support for the proposal along with disappointment at the delay.
"By law, EPA should have finalized approval of the governors' petition more than seven months ago, which would have given the marketplace more than enough time to adjust and prepare for implementation this summer," said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA.