Monday, October 07, 2019

EPA and USDA promise to increase ethanol in fuel supply, make it easier for gas stations to sell E15 fuel

The Trump administration proposed new rules on Friday to increase biofuels consumption starting next year, a move meant to assuage the increasing frustrations of corn farmers and ethanol producers.

The new rules, jointly proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture, "would require a yet unspecified increase in the amount of ethanol that oil refiners must add to their fuel in 2020, and would also aim to remove further barriers to the sale of higher ethanol blends of gasoline like E15," which is 15 percent ethanol, Reuters reports.

Though the amount of ethanol wasn't specified, the administration said it would be more than 15 billion gallons. All changes to blending volumes for 2020 must be finalized by Nov. 30. "Before Friday's proposal, the EPA had called for the refining industry to add 20.04 billion gallons of biofuels, including 15 billion gallons of ethanol, into their fuel in 2020," Pamuk and Kelly report.

Under the new rules, E15 fuel would be made available at pumps already in place at most gas stations instead of requiring the installation of new pumps. "The proposal also includes trade measures to increase the access of ethanol to foreign markets," Lisa Friedman reports for The New York Times. "The move is widely viewed as an effort to relieve pressure on farmers at a time when the Trump administration is escalating its trade war with China and Europe."

Lawmakers from oil states objected. Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said some refineries would shut down and their workers would lose their jobs because of the proposed rules. Barrasso chairs the Committee on Environment and Public Works, which oversees the EPA, Reuters notes.

On the other hand, ethanol interests have also protested about shuttered plants and lost jobs because of the Trump administration's reluctance to continue increasing the corn-based ethanol ratio in the Renewable Fuel Standard, and because the administration routinely grants hardship waivers to small oil refineries, meaning they don't have to mix ethanol into their fuel, Friedman reports.

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