The US is expected to use so-called “E15” gasoline throughout the summer. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden will announce that the US Environmental Protection Agency will issue a national waiver allowing the ethanol-gasoline blend to be used between June 1 and September 15, as Americans complain about high fuel prices. Currently using this fuel is illegal due to smog regulations.
Ethanol-gasoline blends became popular in the 2000s as a potential panacea to solve the United States’ energy dependence on the Middle East, as well as a means of climate remediation. It has always played well in the Iowa Caucuses as it gives us something to do with our immense corn surplus.
E85 fuel — a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline — quickly fell out of favor. But 98 percent of US gas stations offer E10, a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. according to the Environmental Protection Agency. At this concentration, the ethanol oxygenates the fuel and increases its octane rating; It also expands the country’s gasoline supply by diluting it.
As the name suggests, E15 is a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline. It’s much less common in the US due to the EPA’s restriction on summer sales (due to increased evaporation in hot weather), but in 2019 former President Donald Trump did approved for year-round use. In 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that the EPA had exceeded his authority.
The White House says that despite a 15 percent drop in oil prices over the past three weeks, it is taking the step “to address the pain Americans feel at the pump as a result of Putin’s price hike.” The administration also says that “E15 can save a family an average of 10 cents per gallon of gas,” although the reduction in fuel efficiency due to E15’s lower energy density could make it difficult for anyone to actually notice.
It’s also bad news for anyone concerned about climate change. Although biofuel blends should save us, growing energy-intensive corn to dilute gasoline is probably worse than just burning the gas itself, Ars’ Tim de Chant reported in February. Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report, stating that we must massively reduce CO2 emissions within the next three years if we are to have any chance of limiting global warming to even 2°C.
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