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Biden Admin to Allow More Ethanol in Gasoline to Ease the ‘Putin Price Hike’

Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: April 13, 2022
Joe Biden will allow E15 ethanol blended gasoline to sell in summer months to combat "Putin's price hike" and "genocide."
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to guests during a visit to POET Bioprocessing on April 12, 2022 in Menlo, Iowa. Biden announced his administration will issue a waiver to allow the sale of 15 percent ethanol-blended gasoline during the summer months to fight “Putin’s price hike.” (Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

U.S. President Joe Biden announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will relax a regulation preventing the sale of high-ethanol content gasoline during summer months in a bid to reduce consumer pump prices he says are caused by the “Putin price hike.”

“But even as we work with Congress, I’m not going to wait to take action to help American families,” Biden said during a public relations event at an ethanol processing plant in Iowa on April 12, according to a White House transcript. “I’m doing everything within my power, by executive orders, to bring down the prices and address the Putin price hike.”

Pros and cons

Biden announced that the EPA is set to issue a waiver eliminating a restriction on the sale of E15 gasoline from June 1 to Sept. 15 that espouses to prevent air pollution. 

E15 refers to gasoline cut with 15 percent ethanol, as opposed to the usual 10 percent. The reprieve will be a minor one for consumers, saving approximately 10 cents per gallon, Biden said.

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Additionally, The Wall Street Journal noted that E15 is only sold at approximately 2,300 of the more than 150,000 gas stations in the United States.

As Biden addressed the biofuel industry and lauded the “more than 40 million bushels of local corn” converted into “130 million gallons of ethanol a year,” WSJ issued the counterpoint that the corn-based biofuel industry had “resulted in the conversion of millions of acres of marginal croplands and wildlife habitat into corn production,” according to a specialist from the National Wildlife Federation.

WSJ further paraphrased the expert as stating the stimulus to corn production also resulted in “fertilizer pollution in waterways and raising pressure on food prices.”

In an April 12 explainer on E15 gasoline, CNN cautioned readers that cars made before 2001, and vehicles with different forms of combustion engines, such as chainsaws, boats, motorcycles, and snowmobiles, cannot burn E15. 

The Department of Energy’s fuel economy website also noted that ethanol contains significantly less energy than gasoline, which results in E15 generating lower fuel economy, which may negate cost savings at the pump.

“Ethanol contains about one-third less energy than gasoline. So, vehicles will typically go 3% to 4% fewer miles per gallon on E10 and 4% to 5% fewer on E15 than on 100% gasoline,” according to the Energy Department website.

In October of 2018, Donald Trump announced a total removal on the summer months ban of E15 gasoline, a move attributed by the press at the time as appeasing farmers in the run up to the 2020 presidential election.

The policy stayed in place until it was nixed by a Federal Appeals Court as late as July of 2021, which stated that Trump’s EPA overstepped its authority with the edict.

WSJ commented, “Senior Biden administration officials say their decision is based on different authority. They also said the EPA has determined there won’t be environmental harm from the change.”

‘Russia is responsible’

Biden has repeatedly positioned the inflationary pressures weighing on U.S. consumers from escalating fuel prices as the work of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Notably, on March 8 when WTI Crude Oil hit a high of $129.42 per barrel, prices not seen since 2008, Biden’s message for Americans on a sharp spike in prices that immediately manifested at the pumps was simply: “They’re going to go up,” Daily Mail reported. 

When Biden was asked how his administration was prepared to assist Americans with the newfound financial pressures, Biden chose simply to deflect the issue by stating “Can’t do much right now. Russia is responsible.”

During the April 12 speech to ethanol producers, Biden also took a jab at Russia President Vladimir Putin when he stated, “Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank — none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away.”

In March, Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan to present a formal Note of Protest warning the administration on comments Biden had made earlier in the month where the president referred to his Russian counterpart as a “murderous dictator,” a “pure thug” and a “war criminal” at two separate public events.