WASHINGTON – President Biden on Tuesday announced a plan to suspend the summer ban Sales of high-ethanol blend gasoline, a move White House officials said was aimed at lowering gas prices, but energy experts expected would have only a marginal impact on the pump.
The Environmental Protection Agency will issue a waiver allowing the use of a blend known as E15 — which is made up of 15 percent ethanol — between June 1 and September 15. The White House estimated that about 2,300 stations in the country serve the mix. The decision is cast as a move towards “energy independence”.
“E15 is about 10 cents a gallon cheaper,” Biden said, after touring a production facility that produces 150 million gallons of bioethanol annually. “And some gas stations offer an even bigger discount than that.”
“When you have a choice, you have competition,” Mr. Biden added. “When you have competition, you have better prices.”
The decision to lift the summer ban comes as Biden faces mounting pressure to cut energy prices, helping drive the fastest rate of inflation since 1981 in March. A gallon of gas averaged $4.10 on Tuesday, according to the AAA. Last month, the president announced a plan to release 1 million barrels of oil per day from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next six months.
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Ethanol is made from corn and other crops and has been mixed with some gasoline for years as a way to reduce dependence on oil. But the high volatility of the mixture can contribute to smog in warmer weather. For this reason, environmental groups have traditionally opposed lifting the summer ban, as have oil companies, who fear increased ethanol use will reduce their sales.
The extent to which the presence of ethanol has affected lower fuel prices has been a topic of debate among economists. Some experts said the decision was likely to reap more political benefits than financial benefits.
“This is still very small compared to the launch of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” said David Victor, a climate policy expert at the University of California, San Diego. “This is much more than a transparent political move.”
Legislators in corn-producing countries Mr. Biden urged the use of biofuels to fill the gap created by the US ban on imports of Russian oil.
Oil refineries are required to mix some ethanol into gasoline under a pair of laws, passed in 2005 and 2007, aimed at reducing oil use and creating greenhouse gases by mandating increasing levels of ethanol in the country’s fuel mix each year. However, since the 2007 law was passed, the mandate has been met with criticism that it contributed to fuel price increases and did little to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
What is inflation? Inflation is the loss of purchasing power over time, which means your dollar won’t go as far as it did today. It is usually expressed as the annual change in the prices of everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, clothing, transportation, and toys.
A study last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that corn-based ethanol was at least 24 percent more carbon-intensive than gasoline when emissions from land use changes to grow corn were included, along with processing and combustion.
“Corn ethanol is a greater source of greenhouse gases than gasoline,” said Jason Hill, professor of bioproducts and biosystems engineering at the University of Minnesota.
“This would actually run counter to climate management goals rather than be beneficial,” said Mr. Mills.
A senior White House administration official on Monday disputed that study, arguing that “a number of analyzes” showed corn-based ethanol cuts greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 percent compared to gasoline.