Biden to expand ethanol availability for pump pain relief

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will announce another step on Tuesday in an attempt to lower prices for drivers who paid more to fill up: expanding the availability of biofuels.

While visiting an ethanol plant in Iowa, Biden will announce administration plans to allow the sale of gasoline containing a 15% blend of ethanol during the summer, senior officials say administration who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Called E15, the blend can cost 10 cents less per gallon on average at the 2,300 gas stations where it is sold, officials said.

Regular gasoline is averaging around $4.11 a gallon versus $2.86 a year ago, according to AAA, and Biden is under political pressure to show he is doing what he can to mitigate the price pain at the pump.

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His announcement comes on the same day as March’s consumer price index will be released, a report that is expected to show a sharp rise in inflation year-on-year.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that the administration expects inflation “to be extraordinarily high” due to soaring oil prices after the invasion of Ukraine. by Russia.

“We are taking a series of measures to reduce the price of gas in order to move us towards a cleaner energy economy in the long term,” she also said.

Biden previously announced that the United States would try to boost oil production and exploit strategic reserves to drive down gas prices, which spiked after Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting a ban on gas. Russian oil imports.

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Democrats called the increase “Putin’s price hike” while Republicans accuse Biden of doing more to boost domestic oil production.

Administration officials said the action Biden will announce on Tuesday will increase the use of local biofuels, thereby reducing reliance on foreign fuels.

While almost all gasoline in the United States contains 10% ethanol, access to E15 is restricted in some states each year from June 1 to September 15 because it is thought to contribute to smog in the weather. warm.

The EPA has determined that lifting this restriction is not likely to have a major environmental impact because most gas stations that sell E15 are not in areas with fuel quality issues. air, according to a senior administration official.

The EPA is not expected to act until June, when it will determine whether a national fuel supply emergency still exists. The agency may grant waivers in 20-day increments.

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An ethanol production facility.

Under President Donald Trump, the EPA granted E15 a waiver for year-round use in 2019. But last year, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the waiver. rule, saying the agency had exceeded its powers. The United States Supreme Court declined in January to hear a challenge to the ruling.

When asked why Biden’s actions wouldn’t encounter the same problem, senior administration officials said — without going into detail — that Biden’s approach was different.

In addition to addressing energy prices, Biden’s trip to Iowa is among the spotlight the administration is shining on rural communities this month. Cabinet secretaries and other administration officials are traveling to dozens of communities to tout what Biden is doing for rural areas.

“Investments are being made to reflect the value and importance of rural places and people,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, said Monday.

Iowa is the nation’s leading producer of renewable fuel and the corn used to make it.

Elected officials, Republicans and Democrats, from Iowa and other Corn Belt states, as well as agricultural groups and biofuel producers, have pressed Biden to use his emergency powers to allow summer use. of the E15.

A Harvard study last year showed that the use and production of ethanol emits up to 46% less greenhouse gases than gasoline. A University of Wisconsin study disputed that finding, saying ethanol is worse for the environment than gasoline, based on changes in how the land is used to grow the corn used to produce it. . But Argonne National Laboratory disagreed with the Wisconsin study last month, saying the group had overestimated soil carbon loss and double-counted some emissions, among other concerns.

USA Today

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