A new administrative rule allowing year-round sales of 15% ethanol fuels was signed by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler Friday, just a day before the start of summer blend rules that would have blocked the fuel from most vehicles until September.
“Following President Trump’s directive, today’s action expands the market for biofuels and improves the RFS program by increasing transparency and reducing price manipulation,” Wheeler said in a release announcing the enactment of the rule. “As President Trump promised, EPA is approving the year-round sale of E15 in time for summer driving season, giving drivers more choices at the pump.”
The new rule applies a waiver to Reid Vapor Pressure rules that prohibited the sales of E15 in summer blend fuels from June 1 to September 15.
EPA also approved minor changes to regulation of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) which are traded as part of compliance with the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). EPA said the RIN compliance changes are designed to increase transparency and deter price manipulation. The rule will require public disclosure if a company’s RIN holdings exceed certain thresholds.
The announcement of year-round E15 availability was met with cheers by the biofuels industry.
“The Iowa biofuels community thanks President Trump for delivering on his promise to allow consumers year-round access to E15.” Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw said. “This is positive news for rural Iowa at a time when we can really use it. E15 will provide an immediate boost for ethanol demand and the long-term potential is quite significant. As a lower-cost, cleaner-burning fuel, E15 has been in high demand where it has been available.”
But concern remains that gains from the availability of higher blends of ethanol will be offset by EPA’s continued granting of exemptions to refiners.
“Finally, speaking of dulling the upside benefit of E15 year-round, as we have repeatedly cautioned, EPA’s ongoing mismanagement of the RFS through blanket small refinery exemptions (SREs) needs to stop,” said American Coalition for Ethanol CEO Brian Jennings. “The net effect of E15 year-round with 2.61 billion gallons worth of SREs that aren’t reallocated means we’re still in the hole when it comes to ethanol demand through the RFS. EPA is currently sitting on nearly 40 requests for refinery waivers from the 2018 compliance year. We discourage EPA from erasing any benefit of today’s rule by granting more waivers at a time when rural America can least afford it.”