The Potluck

Minnesota leaders cheer E15 waiver, a boon for corn farmers

By: - April 12, 2022 12:13 pm

Photo courtesy United States Department of Agriculture.

President Joe Biden will visit Iowa on Tuesday to announce his administration would temporarily lift a Clean Air Act rule to allow higher ethanol blended gasoline to be sold through the summer in an effort to bring down gas prices.

E15 gas, which is blended with up to 15% ethanol, is usually banned from June to September to limit air pollution, but high gas prices — months before the crucial 2022 midterm election — have pressured Biden to take executive action.

The news was welcomed by Midwestern politicians who would like to see the summer-time ban permanently lifted, which would be a boon for their large corn growers constituency.

U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, a Democrat whose district is south of the Twin Cities, applauded the move by Biden.

“I am glad that the Biden Administration is taking this action, which, especially as we work to lessen our dependence on foreign energy producers and hold Russia accountable for its unjustified invasion of Ukraine, is an announcement that all Americans can support,” Craig wrote in a statement.

Craig authored a bipartisan letter to Biden late last month urging him to lift E15 restrictions and is the lead sponsor of a bill that would make E15 gas available year round.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith along with Gov. Tim Walz also voiced their support for the move, which is estimated to bring down the cost of gas by about 10 cents per gallon.

Proponents of ethanol say E15 isn’t much worse for air pollution than E10 gas, which is the most common kind of gasoline sold in the U.S.

U.S. government agencies and ethanol proponents claim ethanol fuels “burn cleaner” and are better for the environment than regular gasoline because the plants used for ethanol — such as corn and sugarcane — absorb carbon dioxide as they grow.

Recent research debunks this claim. One study published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that ethanol is at least 24% more carbon-intensive than gasoline in part because carbon-rich forests are cut down to plant corn.

The Democratic politicians similarly lauded then-President Donald Trump in 2019 for lifting the summertime ban on E15, which was struck down in 2021 by an appeals court.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Previously, he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.