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DES MOINES — As legislative and regulative roadblocks continue to prevent the year-round sale of the E15 blend of ethanol gasoline, a group of Midwest governors, including Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, is pursuing a regional solution.
The proposal was included in notes published this week by the White House ahead of President Joe Biden’s trip to Iowa, where he made a public announcement of his administration’s plan to keep E15 at the pumps this summer.
Essentially, the governors are proposing the federal government regulate E10 — the most common blend of ethanol currently available year-round — the same as E15, which has a higher ethanol blend and typically is cheaper.
Seven Midwest governors, including Republicans and Democrats, in November signed a letter to the federal government asking federal regulators about the proposal. The original signees were the governors of Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Since then, Reynolds said Wednesday, the governors of Illinois and Kansas have lent their support to the proposal.
Because the proposal could be implemented on a state-by-state or regional basis, having that many governors on board is important, Reynolds said.
“We have been working since last year on a Midwest waiver to this,” she said. “I’m very excited about that.”
Under current federal law, for the stated reason of limiting air pollution, the higher ethanol blend of E15 cannot be sold during the summer driving season, June 1 through Sept. 15, because of concerns it adds to smog during hot weather.
In 2019, President Donald Trump’s administration used federal rule-making to eliminate the summer sales ban, making E15 available year-round in 2020 and 2021. But in December, a federal court struck down that rule based on procedure.
The Biden administration is making E15 available this summer by issuing an emergency order via the Environmental Protection Agency, citing the strain placed on the U.S. fuel supply by Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. By its nature as an emergency action, its impact will be only temporary.
With the goal of making E15’s year-round sale permanent, the White House included the Midwest governors’ proposal in its information relating to its announcement this week.
“EPA is also considering additional action to facilitate the use of E15 year-round, including continued discussions with states who have expressed interest in allowing year-round use of E15 and considering modifications to E15 fuel pump labeling,” a White House fact sheet said.
Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said he was pleased to see the White House mention that proposal and its willingness to work with those governors on a more permanent solution.
“Basically, what we need is we need (E10 and E15) regulated the same,” Shaw said at Tuesday’s event with Biden at a biofuels processing plant in Menlo. “We think that’s headed in the right direction. And so that’s huge.”
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