President Trump recently signed a memorandum which was sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advocating for the year-round sale of E-15 gasoline. Increasing the year-round selling of E-15 is a hopeful for the Trump Administration because of the political gain it will afford the Administration from agricultural proponents. Given its larger 15% ethanol composition (the standard E-10 is made up of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline), increased E-15 sales would be a boost for farmers. But is this necessarily the best move for motorists and service stations throughout the country?
Currently, E-10 is the most widely accepted and available gasoline in the U.S. The 10% ethanol it contains provides oxygen which makes engines burn more cleanly and, therefore, reduce pollution. E-15, on the other hand, is not nearly as common as E- 10—only an estimated 1,430 of the nation’s 122,000 service stations currently sell E-15. Further, E-15 is typically only sold during the cooler months of the year when it is less likely to cause ozone damage through the added amount of smog it produces. Therefore, being available between the hottest months of the year—June 1 through September 15—would take some other chips falling into place.
For one, if year-round E-15 availability were to become the new norm, it would require a waiver from the EPA. Naturally, petroleum groups assert that the EPA doesn’t have the authority to grant a fuel volatility waiver for E-15. Oil companies fear added E-15 sales would cut into their overall sales which is a legitimate concern. This could cause a fluctuation in prices and supply which would further disrupt an already somewhat volatile market. And that’s not the only concern.
In 2011, several vehicle manufacturers warned consumers about the damage to engines and fuel-supply systems E-15 could have on vehicles built prior to that year. More simply put, if a car not yet ten-years-old were to accidentally fill-up with E-15, it could be at risk for serious damage. Granted, vehicles built after 2013 are now capable of safely running on E-15, but that certainly does not account for all vehicles on the road.
Whatever the future holds for year-round E-15 sales, it is safe to say the verdict is still out. Time will tell if it will become a more readily available fuel alternative or not. Stay tuned for what will come of this highly-contested debate and determine where you fall on the E-15 debate.