EPA approves E15 waiver, economists expect little ag impact

The EPA has issued an emergency waiver allowing sales of E15 this summer, fulfilling an announcement made by President Biden in mid-April.

EPA administrator Michael Regan said the waiver aims to counteract a shrinking global fuel supply triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, noting it also increases domestic energy independence while supporting U.S. agriculture.

But, University of Missouri ag economist Ben Brown doesn’t expect the approval to be too impactful in the fuel market.

Brown said the short-term nature of the waiver doesn’t offer much incentive for fueling stations to update infrastructure.

“We just don’t sell a lot of E15 as a share of our total gas consumption,” Brown said. “And so, therefore – picking up a couple months with the current infrastructure – I just don’t really see this moving the needle much.”

A recent survey of rural bank CEO’s also shows that the emergency waiver won’t significantly impact the ag economy.

Creighton University’s Ernie Goss says 6 out of 10 bankers in the Rural Mainstreet Index say it won’t affect the industry.

“The problem with that is this is a temporary measure; it’s only for this year.,” he said. “And, likewise, a lot of service stations out there really don’t have that capability to provide that to their customers.”

He tells Brownfields consumer demand for E15 fuel isn’t high. “The farmers need more in terms of ethanol,” Goss said. “We need year-round support there.”

Brown said high Renewable Identification Number (RINs) prices should already be incentivizing the sale of higher ethanol blends, but,

“Certainly it’s a possibility to see some increased sales,” he said. “But I just really don’t see E15 making that much of a dent this year.”

He tells Brownfield, if the waiver were more permanent, more E15 pumps might come online.

Renewable Fuels Association CEO Geoff Cooper applauded EPA for quick implementation of the waiver, thanking the administration for turning to America’s corn fields for help instead of Saudi Arabia’s oil fields.

American Coalition for Ethanol CEO Brian Jennings says they are grateful EPA intends to issue new waivers covering the 2022 summer driving season, but encourages the administration to work with Congress on legislation to permanently allow year-round E15 sales.

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor also commended EPA’s swift action, noting that E15 has been saving drivers up to 60 cents per gallon while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting economic growth.

The EPA says the emergency fuel waiver goes into effect May 1st and will last for the statutory maximum of 20 days. EPA will continue to monitor fuel supply and plans to issue new waivers to extend E15 sales until fuel supply issues due to the war are resolved.

Brownfield’s Rhiannon Branch and Will Robinson contributed to this story.

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