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It's Time to Check the Facts on E15

April 18, 2022

E15, White House


When word got out last week that President Biden would be visiting Iowa to make an announcement related to E15, ethanol’s opponents went to work. They wasted precious little time in mounting yet another misinformation campaign designed to mislead and confuse consumers about the benefits of renewable fuels and higher ethanol blends like E15.


Within hours of President Biden’s announcement last Tuesday that consumers will continue to have access to low-cost E15 this summer, the oil industry and its surrogates (Twitter trolls, certain grant-funded professors, faux environmentalists, etc.) were already taking to the airwaves and flooding reporter inboxes with every ethanol myth and bit of misinformation they could find.


I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, as President Biden said last week, E15 “…gives you a choice at the pump. And when you have a choice, you have competition; when you have competition, you have better prices.” Oil refiners don’t like competition, and they certainly don’t like giving consumers the option to choose a lower-cost product that contains less petroleum and more low-carbon renewable fuel.


Unfortunately, many reporters and editorial boards covering the news swallowed the oil industry’s talking points—hook, line, and sinker—without bothering to check the facts or talk to third-party experts who could give an unbiased perspective. This was especially true when it came to the reporting on E15 and air quality. Numerous media outlets falsely reported that EPA had previously “banned” E15 sales in the summertime due to “smog concerns.”


A little bit of homework would have quickly led reporters to understand that E15 has lower volatility than today’s regular gasoline and reduces emissions of the pollutants that can lead to smog. Here are some other common facts that were routinely overlooked in media coverage of last week’s announcement:


  • E15 was sold year-round in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Thus, allowing year-round sales of E15 in 2022 (as President Biden has pledged to do) is really nothing new. It will not place new or unexpected demands on the marketplace. Rather, the action will simply keep an existing market for ethanol (and corn) open, while also ensuring that consumers who have enjoyed three years of uninterrupted access to E15 will continue to have the choice to purchase E15 all year long in 2022.
  • The real reason E15 sales were restricted in the summer (prior to 2019) is because the fuel was held to a far more restrictive vapor pressure standard than regular gasoline, the result of an antiquated regulation.
  • As an oxygenate, ethanol has a long history of reducing smog and improving urban air quality.
  • E15 offers a lower cost per mile traveled, even when its slightly lower energy density is considered.
  • E15 reduces GHG emissions compared to regular gasoline.
  • E15 is legally approved for use in more than 96 percent of all cars, pickups, SUVs, and vans on the road today.
  • Not a single confirmed case of “engine damage” or inferior performance has been reported since E15’s introduction a decade ago.
  • E15 is not being required or mandated in any way.
  • Summertime E15 sales in 2022 will have little discernable impact on corn prices and no impact on food prices.


More details on these facts and others are provided in this new E15 Fact Check from RFA. We hope policymakers, the media, and consumers will use this resource—rather than relying on oil industry talking points—as the conversation about E15’s benefits continues.