- The Washington Times
Friday, April 29, 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued an emergency waiver to allow higher-ethanol gasoline blends to be sold in the summer, in the Biden administration’s latest bid to lower gas prices.

Under the waiver, gasoline with 15% ethanol content, known as E15, will be sold starting May 1, the date gas stations traditionally can no longer sell the higher blend. It will last for 20 days, but the EPA said it expects to issue new waivers extending the sale of E15 until the U.S. can replenish its fuel supply.

“The waiver is a critical step to address the fuel supply crisis and follows President Biden‘s announcement earlier this month laying out actions to increase use of biofuels in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, accelerate the clean energy transition, build real U.S. energy independence, support American agriculture and manufacturing, and save Americans money at the pump,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Ms. Psaki said the move would save drivers 10 cents a gallon at current prices.

Mr. Biden had announced the waiver would be coming during an appearance in Iowa earlier this month.

Typically, only the standard 10% ethanol blend can be sold during the summer to limit smog on warm days. However, research in recent years has concluded E15 may not produce more smog than the 10% blends sold year-round.

Mr. Biden touted his move as critical to lowering soaring gas prices, which have contributed to rising inflation. The Labor Department announced earlier this month that U.S. consumer prices rose 8.5% from a year ago, the highest increase since December 1981.

Mr. Biden has been under pressure for months to get control of high gasoline prices and has increasingly pinned the blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin for disrupting energy supplies, though the inflationary trend began before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The average price of a gallon of gas on Friday was $4.15, according to data from the automobile group AAA. That represents an increase from $4.12 a gallon last week and $2.89 on the same date last year.

Polls consistently show voters are frustrated with Mr. Biden‘s economic policies and Democrats fear the anger will cost them control of both the House and Senate in the November elections.

Former President Trump sought a similar waiver in 2019 when he directed the EPA to permanently allow the summertime sales of E15. That plan was blocked by the Supreme Court when it refused to hear a federal appeals court decision striking down the plan.

E15 is currently sold at 2,300 gas stations across the country. There are more than 150,000 stations nationally, raising questions on how much relief drivers will see from the effort.

Groups representing refiners and fossil fuel companies question whether the waiver will result in savings for consumers.

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, a refiners trade group, said E15 is too small of a market to benefit consumers. The American Petroleum Institute called the effort a short-term fix that doesn’t address America’s energy needs.

Ethanol is popular in farm-belt states such as Iowa and Nebraska, where Mr. Biden needs to court voters to help his party to retain seats in the midterms.

Although the waiver puts Americans’ wallets ahead of environmental concerns, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the move was necessary to combat rising gas prices, exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“President Biden and this administration are committed to protecting American consumers from the impacts of Russia’s unprovoked attack against Ukraine,” Mr. Regan said in a statement. “Putin’s war has had a profound impact on global and domestic energy markets. In consultation with Secretary Granholm, I have concluded that it is necessary to take action to allow E15 sales during the summer driving season in order to minimize and prevent disruption of summertime fuel supply to consumers.”

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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