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Senators renew push for year-round E15 fuel use

(The Center Square) – A bipartisan group of Senators is asking the Biden administration again to allow the sale of E15 fuel throughout the year. 

The Environmental Protection Agency bans the sale of gasoline mixed with 15% ethanol during the summer months. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and 16 other senators said in a letter to the administration the prohibition should be removed as soon as possible. 

“Taking early action on E15 will send timely and necessary signals across the energy supply chain so that fuel producers and retailers will have the certainty they need to ensure affordable, reliable, and cleaner fuel options for American consumers throughout the year,” the senators said. “Further, U.S. use of E15 will continue to displace Russian oil and finished gasoline products, ease domestic and global supply constraints, and lower net domestic fuel prices.”

Cramer joined Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Amy Klobuchar D-Minn., in sponsoring the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act last year. The bill did not make it out of Congress. 

The E15 fuel blend is sold at more than 2,900 retailers at prices that are up to 96 cents less per gallon than regular gasoline, according to the letter. Approval to sell the blend year-round could save consumers more than $20 billion a year and reduce carbon emissions by 17.62 million tons, the senators said. 

The Biden administration allowed gasoline retailers to sell the E15 blend last summer in response to rising gas prices blamed on the war in Ukraine. That action saved consumers $57 million, the senators said. 

Taxpayers for Common Sense questioned expanding the use of ethanol. Since 2011, the Department of Agriculture has offered three subsidy programs for blender pumps, that dispense ethanol blended gas. Congress did not approve the subsidies, according to the organization.

“More than four decades of government-set mandates and subsidies for the corn ethanol industry have distorted markets, picked winners and losers, and worked at cross purposes with other federal programs aimed at protecting consumers, the climate, and environment,” the organization said in its report issued last year. “Expanding the use of E15 in the short-term would likely have limited effects. Expanding E15 use long-term through legislative action – or worse yet, subsidizing it – would only worsen the negative impacts of ethanol use, without benefiting the climate. Instead of continuing to expand corn ethanol’s market share, policymakers should invest in real climate solutions such as agricultural conservation practices that sequester carbon long-term.”

The EPA introduced a proposed rule on Wednesday allowing E15 to be sold in eight states year-round. The waiver for Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin will not take effect until April 2024, according to the EPA. 

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said in a social media post the EPA needs to expedite the waiver. 

“Biden’s decision is over 200 days past EPA’s lawful deadline, and not in time for the 2023 driving season,” Ernst said in a Twitter post. “POTUS must grant an emergency waiver for this year.”

The EPA is planning a virtual public hearing for late March or early April, the agency said in its proposal.

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