Drivers could be seeing five percent more ethanol in their gasoline as lawmakers look to lift the three-month ban on E15 blends.
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The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) looks to move forward with allowing a higher concentration of ethanol to be blended with gasoline year-round.
Presently, E15-blended fuel (known affectionately as “winter mix”) is only permitted to be sold eight months out of the year. The EPA’s newly proposed regulation, a copy of which found on the EPA’s web site, would lift this ban and permit higher concentrations of ethanol in fuel that is sold annually from June 1 through Sept. 1.
“Consistent with President Trump’s direction, EPA is working to propose and finalize these changes by the summer driving season,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement. “We will be holding a public hearing at the end of this month to gather important feedback.”
The use of biofuel products, such as ethanol, is heavily subsidized in the United States. This enables farmers to grow the so-called “cash crops” at a significant premium with continued demand. Some states, such as Iowa, dedicate up to 39 percent of its corn crops for the sole use of fuel additives. The government hopes that by permitting the higher blend of ethanol, drivers will be paying less at the pump.
But for consumers, more ethanol means lower overall fuel economy since ethanol only possesses two-thirds the energy content of a gallon of gasoline. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that a 10 percent ethanol blend into gasoline will decrease a car’s overall fuel economy by three percent; this means that increasing ethanol to a 15 percent blend will bring the average fuel economy down 4.5 percent when compared to just straight gasoline.
A waiver was first issued by the EPA to permit the sale of E15-blended gasoline beginning in 2011, bringing to life a heated and long-winded debate about the necessity over the blend’s summer ban. Claims have been made that the ban is appropriate due to environmental concerns, citing E15 fuel produce a higher level of pollutants in the summer months. According to CNBC, ethanol industry representatives disagree, stating that this assumption is unfounded. Others claim that the ban is due to an antiquated fear over vapor lock occurring at high temperatures.
The EPA will hold a public hearing regarding the matter on March 29.