Make ethanol increase in fuel permanent, DeWine asks

Seeking to lower gasoline prices, the Biden Administration temporarily authorized year-round sale of E15 – fuel containing up to 15% ethanol, alcohol produced from plants.

Now Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is asking to make that permanent.

He sent a letter Friday to Michael Regan, administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, seeking a permanent waiver of the EPA standard.

Gas prices have sharply spiked worldwide due to several factors: the normal summer travel season, reviving as COVID-19 wanes; limited refinery capacity; and a cutback in purchases of Russian oil in reaction to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Friday, fuel price-tracker GasBuddy.com reported the nationwide average price for gasoline passed $5 per gallon for the first time ever, up 66 cents in the previous month.

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The lowest prices for regular gas in the Dayton-Miami Valley region ranged from $4.89 in Montgomery County to $5.02 in Miami County, according to GasBuddy.

Many fuel emission standards are set by the federal Clean Air Act, passed in 1963. It last saw major amendments in 1990, allowing sale of fuel containing up to 10% ethanol. But E15 was not made in the U.S. at the time and so was not covered by its standards.

The federal government partially authorized the sale of E15 in 2011. It does burn cleaner than gasoline containing less ethanol, reducing some kinds of air pollution, but in hot weather E15 also produces more ground-level smog. Its sale is generally prohibited during the “summer ozone season,” from June 1 to September 15.

Other states, farm and biofuel groups have sought permanent permission to sell E15 year-round for several years. In 2019 the Trump Administration eliminated the E15 restriction, but a federal court reversed that in July 2021.

The EPA can grant temporary emergency fuel supply waivers to sell it, and that’s what has been done by President Joe Biden’s order on April 12 in hopes of lowering gas prices.

“Your emergency waiver has provided uninterrupted access to E-15 this summer,” DeWine wrote to Regan.

He asked that the waiver become permanent beginning in the summer of 2023.

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As part of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. and it allies are cutting back on buying Russian oil and pressuring other countries to do the same. Oil and gas exports provide a third to half of the Russian government’s revenue. The U.S. bought only about 3% of its oil from Russia, but many European countries depended heavily on Russian oil and natural gas. Those cutbacks are driving up fuel prices worldwide, according to GasBuddy.

“In addition, U.S. refining capacity has fallen by some 1 million barrels per day over the last three years,” GasBuddy reported.

A half-dozen U.S. fuel refineries closed in 2020, leaving a refining capacity of 18.1 million barrels of crude oil per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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