It’s time for E15 to Fuel the Golden State

The Renewable Fuels Association is proud to come to California for the 2024 National Ethanol Conference, taking place Feb. 19–21 in San Diego. Nearly 1,000 industry leaders, news media, and others are expected at this meeting to network and learn about the bright future of renewable fuels—while enjoying a taste of what California offers.


California is known for setting trends, especially when it comes to sustainability and clean energy. But California trails the other 49 states when it comes to adopting cleaner liquid fuels. It is the only state in the nation that hasn’t yet approved E15, gasoline containing 15% renewable ethanol. By allowing the sale of E15, the state could once again demonstrate its commitment to reducing emissions, while saving drivers money at the pump.


RFA calls on the California Air Resources Board to expeditiously approve the use of cleaner-burning, lower-carbon E15 gasoline blends, which contain 15 percent ethanol. The state’s failure to approve the fuel has caused unnecessary increases in greenhouse gas emissions and tailpipe pollution linked to smog—as well as higher prices at the pump for California consumers.


Click here for an October 2023 letter to CARB outlining RFA’s position.


CARB’s continued failure to allow the use of E15 clearly contradicts the scope and purpose of the waiver California has historically received from the Clean Air Act’s preemption provisions. California has historically received a waiver from the Clean Air Act’s preemption clause because the state’s air pollution regulations have been “at least as protective” as federal standards. However, CARB’s current gasoline regulations are less protective of public health and welfare than the federal standards that allow for E15 consumption in all light-duty vehicles built since 2001.


University of California Research Shows Emissions-Reducing Benefits of E15 Blend


A 2023 study from the University of California, Riverside, shows that the E15 ethanol blend provides notable emissions reductions compared to California’s regular reformulated gasoline. According to the study, emissions of total hydrocarbons, non-methane hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide all showed either marginally or statistically significant reductions for E15 compared to regular California gasoline. In addition, particulate matter and solid particle number emissions dropped substantially with E15, and E15 showed lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions savings when compared to E10.


Click on the image at right for more information on ethanol's impact in California.


Earlier: California Takes Big Step Toward E15 Approval with Release of Emissions Study


In June 2022, California took an important step toward approving the use of cleaner, lower-cost E15 by releasing the results of a multi-year study of the fuel’s emissions impacts. The results of the study, which tested 20 vehicles, show that shifting from E10 to E15 reduces emissions of most pollutants that contribute to ozone formation and, ultimately, smog. Among the study’s key conclusions, particulate matter (i.e., the “soot” or particles that contribute to smog) showed “strong, statistically significant” reductions of 16-54% for E15 compared to E10 across the fleet of 20 vehicles. Solid particle number emissions were 12% lower for E15 than E10, at a statistically significant level. Click here for details.


California’s Flex Fuel Vehicle Drivers Embrace E85


Sales of E85 flex fuel in California in 2022 surged 66 percent over 2021 and more than doubled the pre-pandemic record set in 2019, data released by the California Air Resources Board indicate. In 2022, California drivers purchased over 103.5 million gallons (mg) of E85 flex fuel, a blend containing up to 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, for use in flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs). That’s up from about 62.5 mg in 2021. Data for 2023 are expected in March 2024.