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EPA Grants Emergency Waiver for Increased Ethanol Blend Amid Global Fuel Supply Pressures

by Anna

In response to escalating global conflicts and fuel supply challenges, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued an emergency waiver permitting the nationwide sale of gasoline blended with 15% ethanol for the third consecutive summer. This move comes amidst concerns over disruptions in the world’s fuel supply chain, prompted by geopolitical tensions and diminished refining capacity in the United States.

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The waiver exempts gasoline containing 15% ethanol from an existing summertime ban, which was implemented due to fears that higher ethanol blends could exacerbate smog during warmer months. EPA Administrator Michael Regan cited Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East as contributing factors to the heightened global fuel supply pressures. Additionally, he noted the impact of reduced refining capacity within the U.S.

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The decision has garnered praise from the biofuels industry and politicians in Midwest states, where ethanol production from corn is a significant economic driver. Advocates highlight ethanol’s benefits, including support for farmers, reduced fuel prices, and lower greenhouse gas emissions due to its cleaner combustion compared to gasoline.

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper emphasized that allowing uninterrupted sales of E15 will help maintain gasoline supplies, prevent shortages, protect air quality, and reduce carbon emissions. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds hailed the decision as a victory for farmers, energy independence, and consumers.

However, critics, including environmentalists, have raised concerns about the potential environmental impacts of increased ethanol production. They argue that expanded ethanol production could lead to elevated carbon releases due to intensified corn cultivation, increased fertilizer usage, and heightened water pollution risks.

Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production, followed by other Midwestern states such as Nebraska, Illinois, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Indiana. While most gasoline sold in the U.S. currently contains a 10% ethanol blend, the prevalence of 15% blends, particularly in the Midwest, is on the rise.

The EPA has authorized the sale of E15 for vehicles manufactured after 2000, with the Renewable Fuels Association estimating that the higher blend could save consumers over 25 cents per gallon compared to the 10% ethanol blend.

Earlier this year, the EPA granted permanent approval for year-round sales of E15 in eight Midwestern states, slated to commence next year. However, the emergency waiver announced by the EPA is temporary and applies only for the current year.

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