The Environmental Protection Agency is starting a rule making process to allow the sale of E15 year-round. Currently, E15 (a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline) is banned during the summer months.
The original ban was based on concerns that ethanol blended gasoline produced smog. According to Successful Farming, the original ban in the 1990s was when smog in large cities was at an all-time high. The EPA made an amendment to the Clean Air Act, making the waiver for E10 part of the law. At the time E15 did not exist. In 2011, the EPA approved the sale of E15 year-round but exempted the summer months.
According to ICM Incorporated, ethanol is produced when a kernel of corn is ground into flour. The starch in the flour is converted to ethanol during the fermentation process.
Ethanol advocacy groups are in support of a higher ethanol blend and are pushing a waiver of Reid Vapor Pressure rules that would allow the sale of E15 year-round. According to Forbes, RVP is the specific requirement that gasoline has to meet to be sold. If the vapor pressure is too high, it evaporates too quickly and contributes to smog formation.
Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said that the ethanol advocacy group she works for believes the new standards will not only benefit the American farmer, but also the American consumer.
Some American farmers are happy to hear about the potential to grow more corn to produce ethanol.“Anytime that we can sell more ethanol, then that is more corn we can grow in Missouri,” said Mike Moreland, chairman of Missouri Corn Merchandising Council and a corn and cattle farmer in southwest Missouri. “It should be a positive for corn farmers.”
Moreland believes the increased sale of ethanol could not only benefit farmers, but communities as well.
“Ethanol has been a big factor in communities,” Moreland said. “Any of the ethanol plants – you look at the one in a certain county there are always more jobs, more commerce, more trucks moving product in and out. It’s been a big benefit to those areas and Missouri corn growers as a whole.”
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nearly all petroleum-based gasoline in the United States is blended with 10 percent ethanol. The total volume of ethanol blended into gasoline has continued to increase since 2010. Meanwhile, the purchasing of ethanol-free gasoline by consumers has declined. The increase in purchasing of ethanol blends is partly attributed to the decreased cost per gallon at the pump.
“As far as cost goes, as long as ethanol is priced competitively, you might expect to see E15 being 2 to 5 cents cheaper than the E10 that we see per gallon,” said Jarrett Whistance, a research scientist at the University of Missouri for the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.
“There will be some savings there for consumers as far as pricing at the pump goes.”
In 2011, the EPA approved the use of E15 in all vehicles built after 2001. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, 90 percent of the cars and trucks on the road today are legally approved to use the fuel. E15 is available at more than 1,300 stations in 29 states. The elimination of the summertime ban will result in expansion of the availability of E15.
“We are uncertain about how widespread it will become,” Whistance said. “It really is uncertain how quickly it could expand. There is a lot of potential there but there is some uncertainty in the market about what vehicles it can go into and who will use it and that sort of thing.”
According to CSP Daily News, retailers like Kum & Go and MFA Oil have committed to the sale of E15 for the summer months.
“Some store owners, some companies may be a little more hesitant to offer E15 right away,” Whistance said. “However, there are some companies that have already made a commitment to roll at E15 as soon as they can. You get both sides of it.”
For consumers, the choice will be made at the pump.
“The marketing of E15 will be a big factor in how it is sold,” said Sherry Jones, a consumer of ethanol blend gasoline in Missouri. “If companies can market E15 as an American-made, farmer produced fuel then consumers will be more apt to buy it.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the benefits of the year-round sale of E15 are that consumers will save money, reduce emissions, provide competition to other gasoline companies and provide an increase to the struggling farm economy.
According to Forbes, President Donald Trump, pro-ethanol state legislators and ethanol organization lobbyists are working hard to push for the lifting of the ban of E15. By May, many are hoping that the ban will be lifted for the summer driving season.
According to Progressive Farmer, a bipartisan group of 20 U.S. senators called President Trump to reject the idea of allowing the year-round sale of E15. Their concerns surrounded hurting consumers whose vehicles weren’t compatible with higher ethanol blended gasoline and worsening air quality.
“There’s room for both gasoline and ethanol in the fuel industry,” said Jones.