NEW YORK, Feb. 22 (Reuters) — The Biden administration said on Thursday it approved a request from Midwestern governors allowing expanded sales of gasoline with higher blends of ethanol in their states, starting in 2025.
The U.S. government currently restricts sales of
or gasoline with 15% ethanol, in summer months due to environmental concerns over smog, though the biofuel industry says those concerns are unfounded.
The news is bittersweet for the corn-based ethanol industry, which has been fighting for years for year-round sales of E15 but is frustrated by the 2025 start date, which was one year later than proposed.
“As the saying goes, ‘better late than never,’ but EPA had a legal responsibility to approve E15 year-round in these states more than a year and a half ago, so postponing the effective date to April 28, 2025, is disappointing,” said Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol CEO. “While we are grateful this issue will be settled in Midwest states with more than half the current E15 retail sites, our urgent priority is to find a solution for continued nationwide access to E15 this summer. The Administration rightfully exercised its authority to grant emergency waivers in 2022 and 2023, and we will be pushing for a solution covering the summer of 2024 as well.”
The Renewable Fuels Association shared that sentiment.
“It’s helpful to finally have some certainty about 2025 and beyond, but what happens this summer?” said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “The Biden administration missed its statutory deadline to finalize the governors’ petition by more than 500 days, and now it claims there just isn’t enough time to implement the rule in time for summer 2024. Why should ethanol producers, farmers, fuel retailers, and consumers in these states be penalized for EPA’s foot-dragging and failure to meet a clear deadline? With the 2024 summer driving season just a few months away, we are urging the administration to take additional action that will ensure consumers have uninterrupted access to lower-cost, lower-carbon E15 this summer.”
The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association sought to see emergency waivers approved for the incoming summer.
“The EPA must now similarly act on emergency waivers this summer so that sales of E15 — and the resulting cost savings to consumers — aren’t interrupted unnecessarily,” said Brian Werner, executive director at the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association.
The governors of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin made the request for year-round E15 sales in 2022, saying the move could help them lower pump prices by boosting fuel volumes.
Some oil refiners, however, have argued that allowing E15 in select states as opposed to nationwide could prompt localized fuel price spikes and supply issues.
The delay enables the administration to put off potential price spikes stemming from the decision until after the 2024 U.S. presidential election in November. Two of the states the decision affects, Wisconsin and Minnesota, are battleground states in this year’s contest.
Inflation and the economy are key vulnerabilities for President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign.
The Environmental Protection Agency had sent a final rule on the proposal to the White House in December with an effective date of April 28, 2024. The new timeline would push the effective date to April 28, 2025.
“By extending the implementation date, this final action reduces the risk of gasoline supply issues this summer and the price impacts that could have come with 2024 implementation,” an EPA official said on Thursday.
The EPA did not comment on whether it would issue a temporary waiver enabling E15 sales this summer.
“We cannot speculate about the 2024 summer driving season. We will continue to monitor the situation, consult closely with the Department of Energy, and be prepared to act should conditions warrant,” the agency said.
(Reporting by Stephanie KellyEditing by Chris Reese) Agweek staff contributed to this article.
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