Speaking at a central Iowa ethanol plant last week, President Joe Biden announced actions to ensure E15 fuel blends will remain available nationwide during the upcoming summer driving season. 

The president said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will issue an emergency waiver allowing E15 to be used from June 1 to Sept. 15 as part of his administration’s efforts to increase fuel supplies and lower prices.

“I’m here today because homegrown biofuels have a role to play right now as we work to get prices under control to reduce the costs for families,” Biden said in a speech at the POET ethanol plant in Menlo. 

The emergency waiver will end uncertainty regarding the availability of E15 this summer after an appeals court ruled last year that the EPA had exceeded its authority in allowing year-round E15 sales. Since then, biofuels supporters have urged the Biden administration to find a way to keep E15 on the market year-round both to help lower fuel prices and to maintain demand for the biofuel.

“Iowa Farm Bureau members applaud President Biden’s announcement lifting restrictions on E15 fuel for the 2022 summer driving season. Sales of higher blended ethanol will provide consumers a cleaner, lower-cost option at the gas pump throughout the summer, and Iowa farmers are ready to meet the increased demand to help drive down fuel costs,” said Iowa Farm Bureau President Brent Johnson, a Calhoun County farmer. “Iowa Farm Bureau members appreciate the bipartisan support from our entire federal delegation for their efforts encouraging the Biden administration to make this important change.”

As the nation’s leading producer of both ethanol and biodiesel, the biofuels industry supports more than 46,000 jobs in Iowa, predominately in rural communities, and accounts for more than $5 billion of Iowa’s GDP.  

“I have been fighting tooth and nail to make sure biofuels (are) a part of the clean energy solution,” said Iowa 3rd District U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne. “I am immensely grateful for the president’s an­nouncement to ensure E15 re­mains available year-round and for his continued work, along with (Agriculture) Secretary (Tom) Vilsack, in supporting Iowa farmers and rural communities.”

E15, also marketed as Unleaded 88, is currently available at 2,600 gas stations nationwide in­cluding more than 250 fuel stations in Iowa, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. It typically sells for 10 to 40 cents less per gallon than E10 or E0 blends.

“Biofuels consistently provide consumers with a more affordable fuel option, and Iowa producers stand ready to meet the moment and ramp up production to lower gas prices for all Americans,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. “It’s going to (create) greater markets for our corn, it’s going to keep the price of corn up (and) it is also going to help clean up the environment.”

Grassley said the emergency waiver will provide some certainly for the ethanol industry, which has been dealing with court battles over E15, delays in setting Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending requirements and RFS exemptions given to small oil re­finers.

“The uncertainty of various government policies changing from time to time is a real weakness for our ethanol industry,” he said.

Biofuel groups said they will continue to work for a permanent solution allowing E15 blends to be sold year-round. E15 is approved for more than 96% of passenger vehicles on the road today, and Americans have driven more than 20 billion miles on E15 since 2011.

“In the short term, the strong signal is to the retailers that American drivers are going to fill up with E15 this summer. But we’re not done. We’ve got to make this a permanent fix,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “Now that we’ve got the summer, we have to go back and revisit with our bipartisan champions (in Congress) and see what the path forward looks like.”