World Events Underscore the Need to Expand Renewable Fuel Production

March 9, 2022

President Biden has followed through with his threat to bar Russian oil imports into the United States, further ratcheting up pressure in response to that nation’s invasion of Ukraine. The move is expected to raise the price of gasoline even higher, given the average in the U.S. exceeds $4 per gallon at the time of this writing.

The news of increased fuel costs comes as the Biden administration is considering a relaxation of federal requirements calling on blenders to mix specific amounts of ethanol or biodiesel when producing the nation’s petroleum-based fuel supply.

To even consider backing away from the statutory obligation to provide our nation’s drivers with the cleaner, less-expensive renewable transportation fuels that ethanol and biodiesel producers can provide runs contrary to common sense, much less the national interest.

While E10 is the ethanol blend fuel long sold widely in the United States, there has been a longstanding push for universal, year-round sales of E15. Those efforts to extend the availability of the 15-percent ethanol blend in gasoline, which faces restrictions in some areas of the nation during summer months, took a hit in January when the Supreme Court reversed a move by the EPA under the Trump administration to expand sales of E15 nationwide year-round.

Legislation is now pending in Congress that would address the Supreme Court’s issues and extend a “volatility waiver” that would make ethanol blends above 10 percent available across the country throughout the year. Supporters of the measure say higher blends of ethanol burn cleaner, providing a way for more Americans to be part of the climate solution.

The authors of the measure don’t restrict their focus on just E15, wisely embracing higher blends, like E30, a premium fuel known for its high octane. DOE research shows E30 significantly reduces carbon deposits within a vehicle, creating a cleaner and more efficient engine.

Research by Steffen Mueller, principal economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Energy Resources Center, shows that the greenhouse gas cuts that could be achieved by using higher-octane midlevel blends with ethanol are at least equal to those that EPA thinks are available from electrification. EPA – and the White House – are ignoring a very cost-effective way of achieving its desired improvements to the detriment of environmental quality, consumers, farmers, and the automotive industry.

White House advisors also would do well to look at the cost-savings U.S. drivers could enjoy with the sale of higher ethanol-blended motor fuels. Early this week, high-octane, premium gasoline sold at a gas station in Watertown, S.D., for $4.50 per gallon. A gallon of high-octane E30 was available at that same station for $3.07 per gallon. That’s a savings of $14.30 for a 10-gallon purchase.

The multidimensional crises the world is now experiencing in real time require bold action and bold leadership.

SfL calls on Congress to take at least one step by adopting the Next Generation Fuels Act now. This bipartisan measure would leverage greater fuel octane to reduce carbon emissions from transportation, improve air quality by reducing the use of harmful aromatics and increase demand for biofuels. SfL also calls on President Biden to direct EPA to immediately remove barriers and enable expanded production of midlevel blends, including E30 automotive fuels. The conflict in Ukraine only further demonstrates the need for a new way forward. This is an urgent national priority.

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