May 21, 2024

EPA issues E15 emergency fuel waiver

Dave Rylander

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency issued an emergency waiver to allow fuel made with 15% plant-based bioethanol to be sold during the summer.

EPA has restricted sales of E15 gasoline in the summer months due to environmental concerns over smog, but has granted waivers the past few years.

The ruling comes at the heels of EPA’s decision earlier this year to permanently lift the ban in eight Midwest states, effective in 2025.

The push for year-round sales began in April 2022 when the governors in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin sent a letter to the EPA stating that “a permanent solution allowing the year-round sale of E15 is also needed for long-term certainty.”

More than 95% of all U.S. vehicles are approved to use E15 and nearly 3,400 retail sites offer E15 across 30 states. The use of E15 was approved by EPA in 2011 for all 2001 and newer vehicles.

“This action will provide communities with relief at the pump from ongoing market supply issues created by the ongoing war in Ukraine and conflict in the Middle East by increasing fuel supply and offering a variety of gasoline fuel blends from which consumers can choose,” the EPA stated in a release.

“This waiver will help consumers protect themselves against fuel supply shocks by reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels, continuing to bolster U.S. energy independence, all while supporting American agriculture and manufacturing. Current estimates indicate that on average, E15 is about 25 cents a gallon cheaper than E10.”

Currently, in approximately two-thirds of the country, E15 cannot be sold from terminals starting on May 1 and at retail stations starting on June 1.

EPA is providing relief by extending the 1-psi Reid Vapor Pressure waiver that currently applies to E10 gasoline to E15, which will enable E15 sales throughout the summer driving season in these areas, if necessary.

This action only extends the 1-psi waiver to E15 in parts of the country where it already exists for E10. E15 can already be sold year-round in parts of the country that have a Reformulated Gasoline program.

Air Quality

Because the RVP of E10 and E15 gasoline used by consumers will be the same, EPA does not expect any impact on air quality from this limited action. EPA’s research has shown no significant impact on evaporative emissions when the 1-psi waiver is extended to E15.

With no significant impacts on emissions from cars and trucks, EPA expects consumers can continue to use E15 without concern that its use in the summer will impact air quality.

EPA’s emergency fuel waiver went into effect on May 1 when terminal operators would otherwise no longer be able to sell E15 in the affected regions of the country and will last through May 20, which is the statutory maximum of 20 days.

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 ongoing war in Ukraine and conflict in the Middle East are no longer present.

“Increased access to higher blends of ethanol is a big win for everyone in Illinois. Of course, I think about corn farmers in Illinois and they will benefit from additional gallons of ethanol sold in our state and nation. However, non-farmers in our state will also feel good about the lower cost of E15 and the smaller environmental impact,” said Illinois Corn Growers Association President Dave Rylander of Victoria.

“We appreciate the U.S. EPA for issuing this temporary waiver allowing everyone the choice to fill up with E15 or Unleaded 88, a blended fuel of 15% ethanol and 85% petroleum fuel.

“There is a permanent fix for this problem sitting in Congress right now called the Next Generation Fuels Act. The bill permanently fixes this E15 access issue, while also cleaning up our transportation sector by allowing the use of homegrown, renewable fuels.

“The Next Generation Fuels Act will protect consumer choice to buy the cars you want to buy and have access to the fuels you need, without compromising our country’s greenhouse gas emissions goals. This bill remains a top priority for Illinois Corn.”

“With gas prices on the rise again and geopolitical conflict roiling global energy markets, we applaud President Biden and EPA Administrator Michael Regan for taking decisive action to combat potential fuel shortages and keep a lid on gas prices this summer,” said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper.

“Allowing uninterrupted sales of E15 will help extend gasoline supplies, prevent fuel shortages, protect air quality and reduce carbon emissions. We also appreciate the efforts of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and the many ethanol supporters in Congress who advocated for continued access to E15 this summer.”

“Heading into another summer travel season, this announcement from EPA helps consumers by reducing their costs and increasing their choices. It helps farmers and their communities by creating more market access. Summer E15 is a good step forward, and now we need full year-round sales and a move toward higher level blends of ethanol, such as E30, which greatly improves air quality,” said National Farmers Union President Rob Larew.

“Earlier this year, the Biden administration finally confirmed E15 can permanently be offered in eight Midwest states, but postponed year-round access in those states until the summer of 2025,” said Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol CEO.

“This action is an important reminder that higher ethanol blends play a critical part in our nation’s energy security, as well as contribute significant climate and air quality benefits. A permanent solution to year-round E15 will ensure these benefits aren’t left to the whim of ad hoc agency decision making in the future.”

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor