We need year-round E15 options

Nebraska is a renewable fuels powerhouse, leading the country in ethanol-blended fuel. Higher ethanol blends are not just good for our state’s economy – they also benefit the consumer, making fuel cheaper and giving more options at the pump. However, up until 2019, blends with more than 10 percent ethanol, or E10, could not be sold during the summer months because they did not have a Reid Vapor Pressure, also known as RVP, volatility waiver.

In 2019, everything changed when a rule implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, determined that 15 percent ethanol, or E15, blends were similar to 10 percent ethanol, and therefore E15 could be sold nationwide year-round. This was a huge win for both rural communities and consumers. Unfortunately, earlier this month, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the EPA’s rule waiving RVP requirements, meaning we could once again face the ban of E15 sales from the first of June to the fifteenth of September.

I have been working since 2015 to ensure EPA would allow the uninterrupted sale of E15 by introducing legislation and advocating on behalf of Nebraska’s renewable fuels industry directly to the EPA. The legislation I have introduced time and time again aims to expand the RVP waiver from E10 to include E15, which is exactly what the 2019 EPA rule did. Now, in response to the D.C. Circuit Court’s misguided decision, I have reintroduced my bill, the Year-Round Fuel Choice Act, to allow E15 and higher blend fuels to be sold year-round.

This D.C. Circuit Court decision could have a ripple effect in our economy. It could drastically impact summertime sales across all non-reformulated gasoline areas. If E15 in markets were to end, E15 sales during those months would fall by 90% in these areas. From a business standpoint, a discontinuous selling schedule for E15 decreases the incentive and the stability needed to produce E15, let alone higher blends. Rather than deal with these regulatory hurdles and the associated costs, businesses could refocus on just E10 and below.

Uninterrupted E15 sales is the clear and logical path forward. This fuel is lower in carbon emissions, and tailpipe and evaporative emissions, the very emissions the RVP regulation is intended to control. In addition to the environmental benefits, The arbitrary ban on summer month sales of E15 costs consumers at the pump and the ethanol industry alike. E15 is lower cost, saving drivers between 5 and 10 cents per gallon.

I will not stand for the roll back of RVP waivers that directly impact Nebraskan consumers, producers, and all those who support renewable fuels. This court ruling defies logic; there is no reason to provide a waiver for E10, but not provide one for E15. We must ensure stability and predictability for family farmers and biofuels producers by diversifying our fuel and increasing options for consumers. I remain steadfast in my commitment to extend to E15 the waiver granted to E10.

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