EPA expected to begin rulemaking process to allow year-round E15

By Erin Voegele | October 09, 2018

Supporters of the ethanol industry are speaking out to commend President Trump for his support of E15 and applaud news that the U.S. EPA is beginning a formal rulemaking process to allow year-round sales of E15.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, confirmed news that Trump has directed the EPA to promulgate a regulation making E15 available year-round in a tweet posted the afternoon of Oct. 9.

Trump is expected to discuss the E15 rulemaking at an Oct. 9 rally scheduled to be held at 6:30 p.m. CT in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

In 2012, the U.S. EPA approved the use of E15 in model year (MY) 2001 and newer vehicles. However, under current law, sales of E15 are limited during summer months. Extending the current Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver for blends beyond E10 would allow E15 to be sold year-round.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the “de factor summertime ban on E15 is the result of a burdensome, decades-old regulation that offers no environmental or economic benefit whatsoever.” The RFA said eliminating the summertime barrier to E15 will save consumers money, reduce emissions, enhance competition, and provide a boost to the farm economy.

“Securing fair market access for E15 and other higher blends has been our top regulatory priority for several years, and we are pleased that the first official step in this process is being taken. When markets are open and competitive, American consumers win,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of RFA. “We thank President Trump for formally initiating the process to eliminate this antiquated, red-tape laden regulation, and look forward to the full resolution of this issue before next summer’s driving season. This is the right signal to the marketplace at just the right time, as both farmers and renewable fuel producers desperately need new market opportunities and sources of demand.”

Growth Energy said the current inability to sell E15 year-round costs consumers the opportunity to save up to 10 cents per gallon and creates an expense for retailers who must pay to retool and relabel their product offerings each year. According to Growth Energy, this creates confusion among drivers and holds back other retailers from embracing new options at the pump.

“We thank President Trump for delivering on his promise to rural America by lifting the summer restriction on E15 sales,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “He answered the call from American farmers by removing the single most important barrier to growth in higher biofuel blends. This announcement is great news for farmers, biofuel workers, retailers and consumers everywhere who want to enjoy cleaner, more affordable options at the fuel pump. This is a critical step toward giving American motorists higher-octane options at a lower cost all year long.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol applauded news of the E15 rulemaking, but cautioned the President’s decision to direct the EPA to begin that rulemaking will not prevent Big Oil from stonewalling year-round E15.

“We are sincerely grateful the President is making good on his promise to require EPA to issue a rule allowing E15 access to the market year-round,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “We also enormously appreciate the leadership of Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley for their unwavering support of the farmers, retailers, and biofuel producers who have pushed for this common-sense change for many years. Once a final rule is in place and retailers can sell E15 year-round, it will help create additional demand for farmers who are suffering from oversupplies and low crop prices. 

“E15 is a low-cost, high-octane fuel EPA-approved as safe to use in 90 percent of all vehicles on the road today, so the beneficiaries of this positive step go beyond farmers and retailers to consumers who would have the opportunity to save money every time they fill up at the pump,” he continued.

“The President’s decision will not prevent Big Oil from stonewalling year-round E15, so we encourage Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to expeditiously publish a legally-defensible approach for extending RVP relief to E15 in the Federal Register for public comment and to finalize the rule before the 2019 low-RVP season kicks-in,” Jennings said.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization pointed out that the move to year-round E15 will provide more market space for cellulosic biofuels. “As BIO noted in our comments on EPA’s proposed Renewable Fuel Standard volumes for 2019, approval of year-round use of E15 can greatly benefit U.S. consumers,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section. “Gasoline prices typically rise at the start of the summer, as refineries switch to production of summer-grade gasoline. Providing a permanent Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver for E15 will lower producer costs and provide relief to U.S. drivers.

“Researchers from the University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics calculated that increasing the use of ethanol to 10 percent in gasoline saved U.S. consumers $7 billion between 2008 and 2016. Using a similar model—accounting for both the price difference between ethanol and gasoline blendstock and the price difference between ethanol and other octane additives—BIO calculates that the switch from E10 to E15 could save U.S. drivers approximately $9.5 billion per year,” he continued.

“Allowing E15 to be sold year-round will help unleash the potential of cellulosic biofuels by creating more demand and marked headroom for the next generation of biofuels,” Erickson said. “Increasing the volume of biofuels in the transportation fuel market gives cellulosic biofuel producers an opportunity to compete for consumers by allowing retailers to provide another choice at the pump.”