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Agriculture Department follows EPA, allows for sale of E15 during summer months


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Following new rules set at the federal level, a Missouri agency has issued a policy change to allow for the sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol year-round.

On June 1, the Missouri Department of Agriculture issued an Enforcement Discretion to allow the higher ethanol blend, called E15, to be sold during the summer months while the agency develops new rules to reflect the change.

“This enforcement discretion will allow for E15 to be sold year-round using the traditional EPA decal,” Sami Jo Freeman, the public information administrator with the Department of Agriculture, told The Missouri Times. “Missouri is an agriculture-friendly state. Our department was proud to step up and ensure our enforcement was in line with the EPA’s decision.”

The petroleum industry still has concerns with the ethanol blend that have not changed with a new approach to what fuels can be sold year-round.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), until the end of last month, banned E15 during summer months over concerns that it contributes to smog on hot days and that the blend releases more emissions into the atmosphere than allowed under the Clean Air Act.

The higher ethanol blend is typically 5 to 10 cents lower than standard blends at the pump but — since ethanol has less energy than gasoline — the high blend covers fewer miles to the gallon, according to AAA.  

On May 31, the EPA granted a Reid Vapor Pressure waiver for E15 to be sold during the summer months — a move that was first signaled by President Donald Trump last year.  

“Following President Trump’s directive, today’s action expands the market for biofuels and improves the RFS program by increasing transparency and reducing price manipulation,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said on May 30. “As President Trump promised, EPA is approving the year-round sale of E15 in time for summer driving season, giving drivers more choices at the pump.”

As a whole, the move by the EPA was applauded by the agriculture industry.

The American Farm Bureau Federation president called the barriers to E15 “outdated” and noted opening up the markets could create additional fuel choices for consumers.

“Nearly 90 percent of vehicles on the road today are 2001 or newer and approved for E15 use. Before this rule was finalized, fuel retailers had to remove E15 from their pumps during the peak driving season,” Missouri Corn Growers Association President Mark Scott said in a statement. “Missouri corn farmers are excited for drivers to have this option and experience lower fuel prices while reducing emissions, improving air quality, and providing greater greenhouse gas reductions.”

He added, “We will continue working with our partners in the ethanol and auto industries to ensure the next generation of vehicles are optimized to run on higher blends of American-made, renewable fuels.”

But the higher ethanol blend does come additional concerns that have the petroleum industry hesitating at expanding sales of the product.

The Clean Air Task Force found corn ethanol’s net greenhouse gas emissions are “28 percent higher than emissions that would result from the use of regular gasoline,” the American Petroleum Institute stated.

But it’s more than just the Clean Air Act that has the petroleum industry caution about E15.

“MPCA members continue to have serious concerns regarding convenience store equipment compatibility (motor fuel tanks, lines, and pumps) and automobile compatibility, most of which have not been designed, manufactured, or warranted to dispense or use fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol,” said Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers Association.