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Memorial Day Weekend Shouldn’t Be Synonymous with High Gasoline Prices

May 24, 2018


While Memorial Day is more often known as the unofficial start of summer, it should be an important time to honor those who have fought and died while serving our country in the armed forces. We owe these men and women a huge debt of gratitude for helping to keep our country safe and secure. I am proud to work for the U.S. ethanol industry, in which veterans comprise nearly one-quarter of our workforce—more than double the energy industry average and four times the national average. Additionally, the use of domestically produced ethanol is helping to beef up our country’s energy security by displacing the need for more than 500 million barrels of imported crude oil every year. Aside from those tremendous benefits, ethanol also helps to lower gasoline prices and the savings could be even greater with higher ethanol blends. More than 37 million Americans are expected to travel by car this holiday weekend. Drivers are expected to pay nearly $3 per gallon on average, the highest gasoline prices in four years. However, according to a recent Renewable Fuels Association analysis, ethanol is already helping to offset higher prices, and 10% ethanol blends alone will save consumers at least $39 billion this year. The savings would be even greater if consumers across the country could use E15 (15% ethanol, 85% gasoline) this summer and throughout the year. E15 is approved for all 2001 and later model year vehicles, equivalent to 90% of all cars on the road today. Unfortunately, a nonsensical barrier prevents E15 from being sold from June 1-Sept. 15 in conventional gasoline markets, which comprise more than two-thirds of the nation. The de facto prohibition on summertime E15 sales in conventional gasoline areas is the result of an outdated and arbitrary Environmental Protection Agency regulation. The Renewable Fuels Association has been leading the charge and working with EPA and the administration to get this resolved, allowing consumers to take greater advantage of ethanol’s high-octane, low-cost benefits. So how much savings is associated with E15? Quite a lot. According to the RFA analysis, consumers who are blocked from accessing E15 are spending at least an extra 7 cents per gallon on gasoline, translating into $6 billion, or approximately $80 per household on a national basis. That really adds up, especially when gasoline prices are already at four-year highs. The consumer savings would be even greater if E15 were used nationwide in approved vehicles in place of E10, the analysis found. Specifically, the savings would be at least 34 cents per gallon compared to ethanol-free gasoline, or 17%, for E15 consumers. Using E15 in approved vehicles would help consumers across the country save approximately $45 billion on gasoline, or $386 per household. President Trump recently committed that his administration will approve year-round access of E15, calling the restriction “unnecessary and ridiculous.” RFA looks forward to working with EPA to make sure all consumers have year-round access to E15 and can take advantage of even greater cost savings. Perhaps next Memorial Day, instead of yet another barrage of news stories about high gasoline prices, the Fourth Estate will remember what this holiday is all about, honoring those who sacrificed to protect our country. The U.S. ethanol industry is proud to help make this country safer and more energy secure.