What is E15 gasoline and why will Biden authorize its use this summer?
President Biden announced that the EPA will issue a waiver for the use of E15 gasoline this summer, but why can’t drivers use it in the summer?
The US and the world have been dealing with high inflation caused by supply issues brought about by covid-19 pandemic disruptions. Upward pressure on prices has been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and one place where Americans have seen that most clearly is at the gas pump.
President Biden on Thursday announced that “to bring down the prices and address the Putin price hike,” his administration was taking new steps to address the situation. In particular to deal with high gas prices, in addition to the previously stated release of 180 million barrels of oil from the US strategic reserve over the next six months, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) will issue a waiver for the use of E15 gasoline this summer.
How will using E15 gasoline bring down the price of gas?
The Biden administration estimates that “E15 is about 10 cents a gallon cheaper than E10.” The President understands that this won’t amount to much, but “Even if it’s an extra buck or two in the pockets when they fill up, it’ll make a difference in people’s lives,” he said during his speech in Iowa to annouce the new measure.
Those savings won’t be felt until the summer when gas stations that sell E15 gas can no longer do so by law, meaning that consumers would have to begin paying for higher priced gas even as the price has come down over the past few weeks. “With this waiver, on June first, you’re not going to show up at your local gas station and see a bag over the pump that has the cheapest gas,” said Biden.
Why isn’t E15 gas sold in the summer?
In the summertime the sale of E15 gas is prohibited due to its potential to worsen air quality. Although ethanol and ethanol-gasoline mixtures have higher octane levels and burn cleaner than unblended gasoline, they also evaporate faster.
The emissions from ethanol evaporating at higher rates from fuel tanks and dispensing equipment in the warmer weather contribute to the formation of harmful, ground-level ozone and smog. Although harmful for all people, this can be especially so for those with respiratory illnesses such as asthma and the elderly.
Not all vehicles can use E15, a blend of gasoline and ethanol
The “E” stands for ethanol, which is essentially alcohol, but obviously not fit for human consumption, made from biomass. In the US, it is mainly produced from corn, but can be made from any number of plant-based materials. E15 is between 10.5 to 15 percent ethanol mixed in with gasoline, while E10 is up to 10 percent ethanol.
Model year 2001 and later light-duty conventional vehicles have been able to use E15 since 2011 when the EPA granted a Clean Air Act waiver based on extensive testing and research funded by the US Department of Energy. However, for other older passenger vehicles E10 remains the limit, as well as non-road vehicles and small engines that use gasoline. These can include boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles and lawnmowers along with other gas-powered garden instruments.
Gas stations are not required to sell E15, and it is only available at around 2,300 in 30 states. However, Biden also announced that his administration is investing $100 million in future biofuel infrastructure such as gas pumps that can handle higher blends of bioethanol and diesel fuel.