Biden Grants Gas Policy Shift to Boost Ethanol in Corn Belt

EPA Rule Applauded by Midwestern Leaders Invested in Ethanol
Gas pump
A customer refuels a car at a gas station in San Francisco. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

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The Biden administration granted a fuel policy change designed to boost sales of corn-based ethanol — but delayed the shift until next year amid concerns a too-rapid transition could spur gasoline price spikes this summer.

The approach underscores how election-year politics are complicating energy policymaking in Washington, as President Joe Biden seeks to propel climate and farmer-friendly initiatives without stoking higher fuel costs that could turn off voters.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule — demanded by eight Midwestern U.S. governors — is meant to encourage more filling stations in the region to sell E15 gasoline that contains 15% ethanol instead of the conventional 10% variety known as E10.

It’s a victory for some of the nation’s top U.S. corn- and ethanol-producing states, including politically important Iowa and Wisconsin, because it will allow filling stations there to offer E15 year-round rather than being hindered by air pollution limits that have long curbed summertime sales.

The EPA rule removes special treatment for E10 gasoline that exempts it from volatility limits. The shift effectively puts E10 and E15 on the same regulatory footing — and allows both varieties to use the same raw gasoline blendstock.

For fuel refiners and pipeline operators, the change requires construction of storage tanks and other infrastructure. Oil industry leaders had warned the Biden administration that the cost of those investments could be passed on to consumers at the gas pump — and said a too-fast pivot would risk even bigger disruption and price spikes.


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In response, the EPA said it will delay the effective date for the change to April 28, 2025. The extension “reduces the risk of gasoline supply issues this summer and the price impacts that could have come with 2024 implementation,” the agency said in an emailed statement.

“While we are pleased to see EPA has finally approved year-round E15 in these eight state, we are extremely disappointed by the agency’s needless decision to delay implementation until 2025,” said Geoff Cooper, head of the Renewable Fuels Association.

The EPA is expected to issue emergency waivers allowing summertime E15 sales regardless, adopting a strategy used in 2023 and 2022.

“Drivers will need a solution for this summer to minimize disruptions and make sure” consumers “have the same access to E15 that they’ve had for the past five summers,” said Emily Skor, head of the Growth Energy advocacy group.

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