(Bloomberg) President Joe Biden will allow higher sales of high-ethanol gasoline this summer in an effort to lower fuel prices and counter the political setback that they entail.
Under an emergency fuel exemption, the Environmental Protection Agency will temporarily exempt E15 gasoline from anti-pollution restrictions that effectively block hot weather fuel sales in areas where smog is an issue.
The change could slightly reduce prices at gas stations. In areas where it is already available, E15 gasoline is sold at a discount of 5 to 10 cents per gallon versus regular gasoline, said Patrick DeHaan, head of oil analysis at the Gas Buddy retail tracker. E15 gasoline is composed of 15% ethanol, a biofuel commonly made from corn.
A senior administration official estimated that using E15 could save motorists, on average, 10 cents per gallon. The Administration has directly blamed the rise in prices on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The move marks another attempt by Biden to mitigate the high costs of gasoline and inflation that are affecting voters, amid the approaching legislative elections in November. In poll after poll, voters have cited inflation as one of their main concerns. The exemption would allow the widespread sale of E15 from June 1 to September 15, when many Americans hit the road during summer holidays.
Oil refineries have seen the change with a bad eye and consider it an illegal political ploy.
According to EPA guidelines, fuel exemptions are allowed to address supply shortages and other emergencies, but they cannot be used to address pricing issues.
Ethanol producers and their congressional allies have been imploring the Administration to make the change permanent, after a successful legal appeal filed by oil refineries led a court last year to overturn an initial attempt by the Trump Administration.
Biofuel advocates argue that seasonal constraints may deter gas stations from offering the highest ethanol-containing blend. At least 2,300 of the country's 150,000+ gas stations now sell E15, and although it is available in approximately 30 states, fuel is more widely offered in the Midwest.
Biden Allows Sale of Higher-Ethanol Gas in Bid to Tame Costs (1)
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