Iowa, Kansas attorneys general urge EPA to allow summer sale of E15 to cut gas prices

Source: By Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and his Kansas counterpart have joined congressional leaders, farmers and biofuels groups to ask the Biden administration to lift the summer ban on gasoline with higher ethanol blends as part of an effort to lower fuel prices.

Miller, a Democrat, and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, sent a joint letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, asking the federal agency to use its emergency powers under the Clean Air Act to allow the summertime sale of gasoline with 15% ethanol, called E15.

While almost all gasoline in the U.S. contains 10% ethanol, access to E15 is curtailed annually in some states from June 1 to Sept. 15 because the higher blend is believed to contribute to smog during the summer months.

“Issuing the waiver would result in both lower pump prices and lower overall tailpipe emissions,” Miller and Schmidt’s letter said. “E15 retail prices are currently significantly below the prices for E10 or gas without ethanol, and E15 has lower emissions than E10.”

Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production and growing the corn that’s used to make it. Kansas is among the top 10 states in both categories.

Gas prices have spiked after the U.S. and its allies imposed steep sanctions on Russia, a major oil producer, over its invasion of Ukraine. Last week, President Joe Biden pushed to expand U.S. oil production and tap strategic oil reserves, but several groups questioned why he failed to also look to ethanol and biodiesel to help lower consumer costs.

Iowa and Kansas motorists are paying roughly 40% more at the pump than they were a year ago, according to the AAA Gas Prices website, which is updated daily. Iowans were paying $3.86 an average Monday for gas, while Kansans were paying $3.74 a gallon.

The national average was $4.19 a gallon Monday, 46% higher than a year ago.

How much cheaper could ethanol be than gas?

Ethanol industry leaders said say the price of gas with ethanol can be as much as a $1 per gallon lower than gasoline without the biofuel. They also maintain that the concern E15 will contribute to smog is unfounded, given research that shows it produces up to 46% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline alone.

“Allowing the higher blend of ethanol also would support our nation’s efforts toward reducing our dependence on foreign oil — especially during this time of global instability,” Miller and Schmidt’s letter said.

Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at deller@registermedia.com or 515-284-8457. 

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