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Last Call for Your Views on E15

You have until midnight in Washington, D.C., to weigh in on an EPA proposal to allow gas stations in all 50 states to sell E15 (gasoline with 15% ethanol) all year. That’s the deadline for comments on an EPA proposed rule that holds both promise and perils for ethanol producers.

The new rule allows sales of E15 in markets previously closed to it during the summer driving season.  Expanded E15 sales represents a long-held dream of ethanol advocates.

If all drivers who currently use gasoline with 10% ethanol (E10) switch to E15, that would create a market for about 2 billion bushels of corn, Emily Skor, CEO of the ethanol trade group, Growth Energy, told Agriculture.com Monday.

“We’re very excited. Now is the time for the EPA to deliver on the president’s promise,” Skor said, referring to a commitment to year-round E15 made by President Donald Trump after his meetings with supporters of ethanol and petroleum industry advocates.

Yet, the EPA rule also has what the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) calls “demand-destroying poison pills.”

Ethanol advocates see the rule weakening the system of selling RINs, or renewable identification numbers. RINs are credits for blending ethanol that are sold to others in the petroleum industry who don’t blend. It’s the system that makes ethanol blending work under EPA’s Renewal Fuel Standard.

The EPA proposal on E15 also “forces retailers to sell 100% of their RINs each quarter, while allowing refiners to wait out the clock until retailers are so desperate to sell, RINs will be essentially worthless,” according to a statement from IRFA .

IRFA is asking others to tell EPA they oppose the “poison pill” parts of the rule while offering support for year-round E15.

Skor said that Growth Energy will also oppose the changes to RIN trading when her group submits comments to EPA today.

“It would advantage refiners over retailers who are trying to sell higher blends of fuel,” she said.

The changes stem from petroleum industry complaints alleging manipulation of the market for RINs, Skor said, adding that EPA has found no evidence of manipulation.

“In many senses it’s a solution in search of a problem,” she said.

Skor said her group believes the EPA is on track to meet its goal of allowing E15 to be sold in all markets on June 1.

That means gas stations now selling E15 will be able to continue selling the fuel during the summer to nearly all automobiles on the road.

Operators of retail chains that now sell E15 in some markets also want to expand E15 sales, and the draft rule will make that more likely.

“I do believe you will see more retailers jumping in and offering it this summer than ever before,” she said.

Yet, the potential expansion of ethanol sales through E15 doesn’t offset hardship waivers granted to petroleum refiners that exempted them from blending ethanol.

The EPA granted 19 exemptions in 2016 and 35 in 2017, which destroyed demand for 2.6 billion gallons of ethanol, she said. Currently, 40 more exemptions requested by refiners are pending before the EPA.

The demand destruction for 2016 and 2017 amounts to a lost market for roughly 867,000 bushels of corn, assuming that a bushel of corn produces almost 3 gallons of ethanol.

“We still have to stop the bleeding from the modified exemptions,” Skor said.

Farmers who wish to contact EPA can see the entire draft rule online and “open the docket folder” to submit comments here (https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0775-0002).

Or, you can send comments through an IRFA online form that you’ll find here (https://iowarfa.org/tell-epa-to-approve-e15-before-june-1-deadline/).

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