Emergency E15 Waivers Provided Relief to American Drivers

While E15 use continued uninterrupted in the summer of 2022, a policy or regulatory vehicle to make its year-round availability permanent is still needed. The Renewable Fuels Association and its allies are working on multiple paths forward.
By Geoff Cooper | November 03, 2022

When President Biden announced emergency summertime waivers for E15 in April, some misinformed pundits wrote off the move as “political posturing” or “a gimmick” to satisfy Midwest voters. But now that the summer is over, we’re able to look at what the data say about the real impact of the emergency waivers. In short, the data provide two clear takeaways: First, E15 sales volumes skyrocketed over the summer (rather than dropping sharply, as they had done in past summers when no waiver was in place). Second, for drivers who had access to E15, the savings at the pump were substantial.

In fact, recent analysis by RFA shows E15 sales rose to record levels in the summer months, rather than falling by half (as they did prior to the summertime E15 barrier being removed in 2019). The analysis also shows drivers choosing E15 saved an average of 30 cents per gallon over the summer. That means a typical household that used E15 in place of regular gasoline (E10) this summer saved roughly $90-$100 on their fuel bill between June 1 and September 15. Altogether, American drivers who fueled with E15 this summer saved nearly $60 million.

These savings could not have come at a better time. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, crude oil and retail gasoline prices surged, and the Biden administration banned imports of crude oil and petroleum products from Russia.

By mid-June, the national average price of gasoline hit $5 per gallon for the first time, giving consumers more need for the availability of lower-cost ethanol blends at the pump. Gasoline supplies were very tight and oil refineries were operating at very high utilization rates, making E15 an effective option for delivering price relief at the pump. That’s because lower-cost ethanol, produced at facilities across the country, is blended to produce finished gasoline close to filling stations, whereas additional crude oil processing was constrained by the tight refinery capacity. Over the course of the summer, ethanol prices were, on average, 89 cents below wholesale gasoline prices.

In addition to the economic benefits, using E15 reduces greenhouse gas emissions even further than E10, by about 3 percent, and E15 also similarly reduces emissions of the pollutants that lead to ground-level ozone and smog.

While the emergency waivers were a win for American drivers in 2022, we need a solution to make year-round E15 permanent, and RFA and its allies are working on this along several tracks. For example, in April, a number of state governors notified EPA that they are establishing regulations in their state for parity between all fuel blends when it comes to vapor pressure, as is their right under the Clean Air Act. And in Congress, bills like the Next Generation Fuels Act and the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act would also make E15 available year-round. 

E15 is approved for use in more than 96 percent of the cars and trucks on the road. It saves drivers money, and it reduces emissions. E15 isn’t just good for America in emergency situations, like we saw this past summer. It’s good for America all the time. That’s why we need a permanent solution to ensure E15 is offered at filling stations around the country—every single day of the year. And RFA won’t stop working until we’ve achieved that goal.

Author: Geoff Cooper
President and CEO
Renewable Fuels Association
[email protected]