On March 12 the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) announced its long-anticipated plan to allow uninterrupted access to E15, a fuel blend with 15 percent biofuel. The EPA’s proposed rule would change the decade-old limitations on year-round E15, allowing consumers to have unfettered access to the clean, lower-cost option at the pump.
Biofuels and ag industry advocates touted the announcement as a significant achievement for the industry and a win for farmers, consumers and the environment. But many also expressed concerns to changes in the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) market that could hinder investment in proposed higher blends.
“This rule is a critical milestone for rural Americans who make renewable biofuels and for all American drivers, who may soon have a cleaner, more affordable, higher-octane fuel all year long,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “We look forward to working with the EPA to ensure that any changes — particularly in the RIN market — do not upend the marketplace, and continue to encourage investment in E15 and other higher ethanol blends. We appreciate the administration’s efforts to fulfill the president’s promise and will continue in our commitment to making the environmental and economic benefits of E15 available to consumers nationwide.”
The administration is expected to complete the rulemaking process by June 1, in time for this summer’s driving season. During the rulemaking process, the EPA is accepting comments from biofuel producers, farmers and other stakeholders.
Year-round E15 sales will benefit not only consumers but also help to boost the nation’s crippling ag economy, proponents say. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the amount of debt held by America’s farmers reflects a level of strain that hasn’t been seen since the 1980s agricultural crisis.
The rule is anticipated to bring in demand for an additional 7 billion gallons of ethanol in the coming years, which will require an additional 2 billion bushels of corn each year.
Year-round E15 is a fundamental step to remedy the ag economy, said POET CEO Jeff Broin. “Biofuels are the only near-term solution that can get agriculture out of crisis mode and help get farmers back on their feet,” Broin said.
In Iowa — the nation’s leading producer of biofuels — policymakers praised the announcement, saying it just makes sense for farmers and the U.S. economy.
"Ending the nonsensical ban on summertime sales of higher blends of ethanol is a no-brainer and a big victory for Iowa, Midwest farmers and the country as whole," said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in a statement. Gov. Kim Reynolds said the proposed rule helps bring “greater stability to our ag economy.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, also said she was “thrilled to see the proposed rule” and reiterated the importance of the rule being in place in time for this summer’s driving season.
For Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, the EPA’s plan is a long-awaited announcement. In a statement, he noted that it is a win for farmers, consumer choice and energy security. “I’ve pushed for the year-round sale of E15 for over a decade, and I thank President Trump for his commitment to seeing this through. Extending E15 sales through the summer driving season will expand consumer choice for a lower-cost and cleaner fuel, reinforce our energy independence, and provide a shot in the arm for our farmers.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also expressed that it has been a long fight to reach this point. “Allowing for the year-round sale of E15 will give us cleaner, more affordable fuel choices — it will bring down prices at the pump, strengthen our homegrown energy economy and decrease our dependence on foreign oil. I have been fighting for years to allow for the year-round sale of E15 and this announcement is a positive step for consumers, farmers and the environment.”
EPA’s announcement is an example of a promise kept by the Trump administration, said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill., 17th District). In a statement, she applauded “the White House for finally taking this commonsense step that will help farmers and consumers across the Heartland.”