U.S. consumers may soon have the opportunity to purchase gasoline with a higher ethanol blend year-round. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump announced he wants the sale of gasoline with 15% ethanol, typically referred to as E15, to go 12 months of the year.
“I want more [use] because I don’t like $74,” Trump said at a White House meeting, noting the price at the time for a barrel of crude oil. “That’s what I want. I want low prices.”
Trump has instructed Andrew Wheeler, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acting administrator, to initiate the process of lifting the summertime ban on the sale of E15. Sales are currently stopped between June and the middle of September. Opponents of E15 say the higher level of ethanol in it contributes to smog during hot summer days. They also contend that the ban cannot be changed without Congress being involved in the process.
Trade groups and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue were quick to support the president’s announcement.
“Year-round sale of E15 will increase demand for corn, which is obviously good for growers,” Perdue said in a prepared statement. “This has been a years-long fight and is another victory for our farm and rural economies.”
Allowing the use of E15 year-round could save users between 3 cents and 10 cents per gallon, because ethanol is cheaper than gasoline, notes the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).
“With 9 out of 10 vehicles on the road today approved to use E15, consumers should have this lower-cost option year-round,” says Lynn Chrisp, NCGA president.
E15 is approved for use in model year 2001 and newer passenger cars, light-trucks and medium-duty vehicles. 2001 and newer models account for 82% of vehicle miles traveled in the U.S.
In its October WASDE report, the USDA forecast that the use of corn for ethanol in 2018-19 will reach 5.65 billion bushels of the 14.827-billion-bushel harvest total projected for U.S. corn production this year.
If E15 is allowed to be sold year-round, David Hudak, general manager of POET Biorefining, said sales of the product will surge.
“Once [more] retailers come onboard, and then we get thousands of thousands of stations, then you’ll see the product fly,” he said on AgDay earlier this summer.
POET produces 1.8 billion gallons of ethanol in seven states, according to Hudak. With more than 200 biofuels facilities across the country, he has no doubts on supplying the demand.
Currently, approximately 1,300 gas stations in 28 states sell E15.
The oil industry is expected to challenge any decision by EPA to waive the summertime ban on E15, saying that Congress will have be involved to determine whether E15 can be sold year-round. Mike Sommers, American Petroleum Institute president, says the industry would fight such a decision in the courts using “all available legal remedies.”