President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would lift a summer-time ban on the sale of E15 gasoline in response to the hike in gas prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
E15 is a gasoline mix that uses 15 percent ethanol, according to a White House fact sheet. However, it is currently barred from use in the summer because it contributes to smog during warmer weather, The New York Times pointed out.
“The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to issue an emergency waiver, allowing E15 gasoline, that uses more ethanol from homegrown crops, to be sold across the United States this summer in order to increase fuel supply,” Biden said as he announced the plan at an ethanol plant in Menlo, Iowa, as Axios reported.
Under current regulations, E15 can’t be used in most of the country between June 1 and September 30, according to the White House. The EPA will finalize the waiver closer to June. Currently, the fuel is available at 2,300 gas stations across the country and is cheaper than conventional gasoline, which uses 10 percent ethanol.
“E15 is about 10 cents per gallon cheaper than E10. Some gas stations offer an even bigger discount than that,” Biden said, as CNN reported.
The action is another example of how pressure to reduce gas prices has come into conflict with Biden’s environmental agenda. Environmental groups argued that the E15 waiver was a step in the wrong direction. Mitch Jones, managing director of Advocacy Programs and Policy for Food & Water Watch, said in a statement that the move was “driving us deeper into the hole of dirty fossil fuel mixtures,” as The New York Times reported.
The Trump administration attempted in 2019 to lift the summer ban on E15 permanently, but this move was overturned by the courts, according to CNN. A senior administrator said that Biden’s efforts were different because they were soley “based on the current circumstance, which is a fuel supply emergency,” according to CNN.
However, other emergency actions Biden has taken have included releasing the largest ever amount from the strategic petroleum reserve and proposing a “use it or lose it” policy for oil companies that hold public land or lease wells without producing any oil from them, according to the White House. This despite the fact that the President has promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030 under the Paris agreement, according to the White House.
“I don’t think when his term started Joe Biden thought he would be spending his second year tapping the strategic petroleum reserve or flying off to Des Moines to approve E15 waivers,” Barry Rabe, a professor of political science and environmental policy at the University of Michigan, told The New York Times.
Gas prices have risen from $3.32 a gallon on average in October 2021 to around $4.32 in March. In his message, Biden put the blame for the rising prices on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine and emphasized the importance of helping people in the U.S. meet their basic needs.
“Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away,” Biden said Tuesday, as CNN reported.
The White House fact sheet also emphasized the importance of continuing the transition to renewable energy as part of the response to the higher prices.
“The President put forward concrete steps to promote real independence from fossil fuels by accelerating the transition to clean energy, ranging from incentives for electric vehicles to Defense Production Act authority for large capacity batteries to a new partnership to reduce European reliance on natural gas,” the White House statement said.