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Biden waiving ethanol rule in bid to lower gasoline prices

WASHINGTON (AP) – United States (US) President Joe Biden is visiting corn-rich Iowa soon to announce he’ll suspend a federal rule preventing the sale of higher ethanol blend gasoline this summer, as his administration tries to tamp down prices at the pump that have spiked during Russia’s war with Ukraine.

Most gasoline sold in the US are blended with 10 per cent ethanol. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will issue an emergency waiver to allow widespread sale of 15 per cent ethanol blend that is usually prohibited between June 1 and September 15 because of concerns that it adds to smog in high temperatures.

Senior Biden administration officials said the move will save drivers an average of 10 cents per gallon at 2,300 gas stations. Those stations are mostly in the Midwest and the South, including Texas, according to industry groups.

Administration officials said the EPA has begun analysing the “emergency” step of allowing more E15 gasoline sales for the summer and determined it is not likely to have significant on-the-ground air quality impacts.

That’s despite some environmentalists long arguing that more ethanol in gas increases pollution. Biden is to announce the move at a biofuel company in Menlo, west of Des Moines. Iowa is the country’s largest producer of corn, key to producing ethanol.

The waiver is another effort to help ease global energy markets that have been rocked since Russia invaded Ukraine. Last month, the president announced the US will release one million barrels of oil per day from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve over the next six months.

His administration said that has helped to slightly reduce gas prices lately, after they climbed to an average of about USD4.23 a gallon by the end of March, compared with USD2.87 at the same time a year ago, according to American Automobile Association.

“Not only is this decision a major win for American drivers and our nation’s energy security, it means cleaner options at the pump and a stronger rural economy,” Chief Executive Officer of the biofuel trade association group Growth Energy Emily Skor said in a statement.

Members of Congress from both parties also had urged Biden to grant the E15 waiver.

“Homegrown Iowa biofuels provide a quick and clean solution for lowering prices at the pump and bolstering production would help us become energy independent once again,” said Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.

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