Gas price burden: Is E15 the answer?

Posted at 7:37 PM, Apr 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-15 19:37:11-04

(WXYZ) — Michigan grows a lot of corn. And that's why farmers are "cautiously optimistic" about the recent White House announcement that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is going to allow for the use of E15 gas during the summer months.

E15 is considered safe to use in passenger vehicles manufactured in 2001 and beyond, but it is banned for use during summer months because of concerns that it adds to smog.

Most gas sold in America is E10, a gasoline blend with up to 10-percent corn-based ethanol.

E15 gas, also known as unleaded 88, is produced with more corn to make the product 15-percent ethanol.

The EPA's emergency waiver to allow for the year-round sale of E15 is aimed at bringing the cost of fuel down by an estimated 10-cents a gallon.

The Michigan Farm Bureau points out that in some areas, E15 has sold for as much as 70-80 cents less per gallon.

Jane McCurry from Clean Fuels Michigan said they support any solution that would reduce gasoline and diesel use.

"We're looking toward a zero emission transportation future but there are solutions that are on the table today like E15 and E85 that we want to harness. Both for the environmental benefits and to reduce costs at the pump today as we work our way toward that zero emission future," McCurry said.

"The number one benefit of higher blends of ethanol is displacing harmful chemicals added to gasoline, like benzene and other chemicals that are highly linked to negative health outcomes," she added.

But there are also harsh critics of E15.

Environmentalist Dan Becker from the Center for Biological Diversity said while ethanol lobbyist will be happy with Biden's well-meaning move, children with asthma will be sicker.

Becker adds that "the solution to the problem of high gas costs and reliance on unreliable sources of oil is cars that sip gas rather than guzzling it. It's not sticking more stuff in gasoline."

There is also debate on how E15 will affect a vehicle's mileage.

Some say its use won't have a noticeable change, but according to the US Department of Energy, "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."

Mark Griffin, President of the Michigan Petroleum Association, says the effect on different vehicles may vary and urges people to pay attention to how far their car is going if they use a different fuel.

If you use Gas Buddy to find lower priced fuel, you may notice that E15 is not easy to find in most of Michigan. Griffin said that's because most gas stations are unable to certify that their systems can handle the 15-percent ethanol.

White House officials said "in implementing this emergency fuel waiver, EPA will work with states across the country to ensure there are no significant air quality impacts through the summer driving season."