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Minnesota officials respond to Biden announcement E15 will be available this summer

(The Center Square) – Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement Tuesday that President Joe Biden made the right call in announcing a temporary expansion of E15 sales this summer.

Not everyone agrees the president’s plan is a good idea, however.

Walz noted he urged Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan in an April 1 letter to make the gasoline blend available to decrease gas prices and increase certainty to the Midwestern fuel market.

E15 is currently sold at 2,300 gas stations nationally, where it can save an average of 10 cents per gallon of gas or more, a fact sheet The White House released Tuesday said. EPA is considering facilitating use of E15 year-round and modifying E15 fuel pump labeling and will work with states to ensure there are no significant air quality impacts this summer, the statement said.

Food and Water Watch Managing Director of Advocacy Programs and Policy Mitch Jones told The Center Square in a phone interview the announcement is “largely symbolic.” E15 is available at fewer than 2% of stations in the country, and gas stations that don’t already have E15 won’t add the equipment required since it’s solely a five-month waiver, he said.

“It’s a shockingly small number of stations that this is actually going to affect, and very few Americans are currently putting E15 into their cars and trucks, so the impact on the average driver is not going to be great at all,” he said.

Jones said increased ethanol content can negatively impact car engines.

There are also environmental concerns. Runoff from heavy use of fertilizer and pesticides creates conditions that impact local waterways, encourage algae blooms in the Great Lakes and suffocate food sources for manatees off the coast of Florida, Jones added.

“The role that ethanol has to play has been oversold by the ethanol industry,” he said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Consumer Price Index for March that prices rose an additional 1.2% last month, part of an 8.5 percent spike in the past year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to award agricultural producers reliant on biofuel producers $700 million through a new Biofuel Producer Program by the end of April. The USDA also announced $5.6 million for Infrastructure for Renewable Fuels through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program to increase sales and use of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel, supporting nine projects in seven states. One hundred million will be awarded for biofuels infrastructure for grants for refueling and distribution facilities for the cost of installation, retrofitting or upgrading infrastructure and supporting biofuels for railways.

A Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge to increase sustainable aviation fuels by 2030, $4.3 billion in funding for sustainable aviation fuel projects and fuel producers, and increased research and development for technologies that can achieve at least a 30% improvement in aircraft fuel efficiency were also announced. The EPA is also proposing a new approval of canola oil to expand access for fuels’ participation in the Renewable Fuel Standard program for renewable diesel, jet fuel and other fuels.

Fertilizer prices are soaring amid a global shortage of commercial fertilizers, Reuters reported April 6.

“We look forward to continuing to work with state and federal officials to secure a long-term fix to this illogical regulation,” Minnesota Corn Growers Association President Bryan Biegler said in a statement Tuesday.

The North Star State has more than 410 retail fuel locations that offer E15 and more will open after a request for proposals for biofuel infrastructure grants program closes, the association’s news release said.

“Corn farmers’ increased productivity and efficiency has resulted in higher yields, using fewer resources to meet food, feed and fuel needs to help keep prices down,” the release said.

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