Biden administration gives green light to fuel that could be even dirtier than regular gas

In an effort to lower high gas prices, the Biden administration wants to use a fuel that may be even dirtier than regular gasoline, the White House announced today. The Environmental Protection Agency plans to issue an emergency waiver that will allow year-round sales of a fuel called E15, which is banned in most of the U.S. during the summer months, when smog poses a greater risk.

E15 is a gasoline blend containing up to 15 percent ethanol – a fuel made with plant material. The move would save Americans money while also reducing reliance on foreign oil supplies, as ethanol can be made with domestically grown corn.

most gasoline in the US it is already blended with up to 10 percent ethanol. The summer ban has been in effect since 2011 and was based on concerns that more ethanol in fuel could lead to more smog. The added boost of ethanol could increase the amount of smog-causing pollutants released into the atmosphere. Those pollutants can react with sunlight to create more smog — a big problem during sunnier summer months. Growing all that corn to make the fuel could potentially lead to more greenhouse gas emissions, too.

The EPA “will work with states across the country to ensure there are no significant impacts on air quality during the summer driving season,” says a White House fact sheet.

Fans of E15 have argued for years that the fuel is not significantly worse for air quality than other gasoline blends. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers recently introduced bills that would remove restrictions on E15. The Trump administration also tried to roll back the summer ban in 2019, but a federal court blocked that attempt.

The alleged cost savings with E15 are also under discussion. The White House fact sheet says that E15 can save consumers an average of ten cents per gallon of gasoline. But while it may be cheaper, ethanol has about a third less energy than gasoline. The cost at the pump must therefore be low enough to compensate for the slight loss in fuel efficiency associated with a higher proportion of ethanol in the fuel.

At the moment, E15 is not very popular in the US anyway. It is sold in only 2,300 gas stations in 30 states. But that could be about to change. The fact sheet distributed by the Biden administration mentions that the “EPA is also considering additional measures to facilitate year-round use of E15.”

“The government’s strategy to boost the development of homegrown biofuels is critical to expanding Americans’ short-term options for affordable fuel and building true long-term energy independence through our reliance on fossil fuels,” according to the fact sheet. †

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