E15 gas: President Biden waives ethanol rule to lower gasoline prices

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is visiting corn-rich Iowa on Tuesday to announce he will suspend a federal rule preventing the sale of higher ethanol blend gasoline this summer as his administration seeks to slash prices at the pump, skyrocketed with Ukraine during the Russian war.

Most gasoline sold in the US is blended with 10% ethanol. The Environmental Protection Agency will issue an emergency waiver to allow the widespread sale of 15 percent blended ethanol, which is normally banned between June 1 and September 15 amid fears it will freeze in high temperatures smog contributes.

Senior Biden administration officials said the move will save drivers an average of 10 cents a gallon at 2,300 gas stations. Industry groups say most of these stations are in the Midwest and South, including Texas.

Biden will announce the move at a biofuels company in Menlo, west of Des Moines. Iowa is the nation’s largest producer of corn, key to the production of ethanol.

The waiver is another attempt to ease global energy markets, which have been shaken since Russia invaded Ukraine. Last month, the President announced that the US would release 1 million barrels of oil per day from the country’s strategic petroleum reserves over the next six months. His administration said it helped bring gas prices down slightly lately after they rose to an average of about $4.23 a gallon by the end of March, compared with $2.87 at the same time a year ago, according to the AAA .

Congressmen from both parties and industry associations had asked Biden to grant the waiver of E15.

“Home-grown Iowa biofuels offer a quick and clean solution to driving prices down at the pump, and boosting production would help us become energy independent again,” Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley Biden wrote last month a letter urging him to allow E15s to be sold year-round.

The trip will be Biden’s first as president to Iowa, where his 2020 presidential campaign limped to fourth place in the state’s technologically flawed caucus.

After rebounding to win the Democratic nomination, Biden returned to a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds four days before Election Day 2020, only to watch Donald Trump win the state by 8 percentage points.

Biden returns to the state at a moment when he faces even more political dangers. He is burdened with falling approval ratings and inflation at a 40-year high, while his party faces the prospect of huge midterm election losses that could cost them control of Congress.

The president also planned to boost his economic plans to help rural families struggling with higher costs, while also highlighting the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill enacted last fall. The law provides funds for improving Internet access, upgrading sewage systems, reducing the risk of flooding, and improving roads and bridges, drinking water and electricity networks in sparsely populated areas.

“Some of this is showing up in communities of all sizes, regardless of the results of the last election,” said Jesse Harris, who was senior adviser to Biden’s 2020 campaign in Iowa and led the voting and early voting efforts for Barack in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign .

Harris said most presidents who visit Iowa typically visit the state’s largest cities. An area like Menlo, part of Guthrie County, which Trump backed 35 percentage points over Biden in 2020, “speaks the importance the administration places on infrastructure in general, but also on infrastructure in rural and smaller communities.”

The Biden administration plans to spend the coming weeks mobilizing billions of dollars in funding for rural areas. Cabinet members and other senior officials will tour the country to help communities access funds available as part of the infrastructure package.

“The President is not making this trip through a political prism,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “He’s making this trip because Iowa is a rural state in the country that would benefit greatly from the president’s policies.”

Still, government officials have long suggested that Biden travel more to bolster an economy recovering from the setbacks of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits has fallen to its lowest level since 1970.

But much of the positive jobs news nationally has been overshadowed by soaring gas, food and home prices, which pushed consumer inflation to 7.9% over the past year that ended February. That’s the sharpest rise since 1982. March inflation figures, to be released on Tuesday, are likely to bring more bad news for the Biden administration.

“Perhaps a trip back to Iowa is just what Joe Biden needs to understand what his reckless spending and big government policies are doing to our country,” Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, said in a statement.

After Iowa, Biden will visit Greensboro, North Carolina on Thursday.

Psaki blamed Russia’s war in Ukraine for helping to push up gas prices and said the government expects the CPI for March to be “extremely high” in large part because of this.

The EPA has lifted seasonal restrictions on E15s in the past, including after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The Trump administration allowed E15s to be sold during the summer months two years later, but had the rule overturned by a federal appeals court.


Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. E15 gas: President Biden waives ethanol rule to lower gasoline prices

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