The onerous regulatory restriction preventing gasoline retailers from selling 15% ethanol (E15) in much of the country during the summer will finally be lifted on Sunday, Sept. 16. This will once again allow consumers across the nation to have access to a fuel that is cheaper, cleaner and offers higher octane than today’s gasoline. President Trump has called the summertime ban on E15 “ridiculous” and “unnecessary” and recently vowed that the administration is “very close” to removing the decades-old barrier.
In 2011, EPA approved the use of E15 in 2001 and newer vehicles, but the agency inexplicably did not allow E15 to benefit from the 1-pound per square inch (psi) Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver that is available to E10 blends. As a result of this disparity, retailers in conventional gasoline areas (most of the country) would have to secure specialty gasoline blendstocks in order to continue selling E15 in the summer. Such gasoline blendstock is generally unavailable in conventional gasoline areas and would be uneconomical to ship. EPA has jurisdiction over gasoline volatility from June 1–Sept. 15 every year.
EPA’s restriction is not only preventing consumers from accessing E15 during the summer months, but is also slowing down expansion of higher ethanol blend infrastructure in the marketplace. Some retailers remain hesitant to invest in the infrastructure to distribute E15 that cannot be sold year-round.
President Trump has expressed support on multiple occasions for allowing year-round E15 sales. Unfortunately, EPA has yet to act on the president’s commitment. The Renewable Fuels Association and six other groups wrote to the president this week, urging his administration to follow through and provide farmers and ethanol producers with expanded access to markets and new sources of demand at a time when agricultural and biofuel markets are struggling.
The summertime de facto ban on E15 is having real impacts on the market. Just this week, the Minnesota Department of Commerce reported that only 2.86 million gallons of E15 was sold in the state in July–the lowest recorded since September 2017 and less than half of the volume sold just two months earlier in May, prior to the summer RVP ban kicking in.
“EPA’s nonsensical restriction on E15 is preventing consumers from saving money at the pump precisely when prices are typically at their highest and is hamstringing further expansion in the marketplace,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “President Trump has repeatedly said he wants the summertime E15 ban to end, yet inexplicably EPA has been dragging its feet. Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has already destructed demand for more than 2.25 billion gallons of biofuel. With the corn and ethanol industries hurting, EPA needs to act now to provide new value-added market opportunities and ensure consumers have consistent access to lower priced, higher octane E15.”