Skip to content
Ron LambertyMay 17, 20242 min read

E15 - Not Done Yet

Many ethanol supporters breathed a sigh of relief and believed the E15 summer Reid vapor pressure (RVP) problem was “fixed” after EPA finally approved the request from the governors of eight Midwestern states to remove the one-pound summer RVP waiver from gasoline containing 10% ethanol beginning in 2025, followed by the Administration granting emergency waiver(s) to allow E15 to be sold this summer under the waiver the eight states requested to not have in force next year. For the eight states - Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin - the issue of legal E15 sales during the June 1 to September 15 “low-RVP season” has been remedied starting in 2025. The question of E15 availability and cost, however, could face new challenges under the approved waiver, with different fuels required in neighboring states and more expensive low-RVP fuel required in most of the Midwest and Plains states, unless a true and permanent legislative fix allowing the current one-pound RVP waiver for E10 to also apply to E15 is passed before next summer.

Refiners have warned of increased cost of lower RVP “base” gasoline that will be required to make E15
and E10 in the eight states if they are forced to move forward without a one-pound waiver for ethanol
blends next summer. There was the requisite doom and gloom in oil industry comments on the rule,
and in their conversations with EPA, as indicated by several pages in the final rule detailing cost issues
arising from the governors’ request. EPA interestingly followed up their analysis of higher costs by saying, essentially, “but we can’t consider cost, so we assume the governors know this…” Kansas, North Dakota
and Indiana all have refineries that likely made similar higher price cases without a waiver, probably along with traditional refiner phony job loss claims, explaining those gaps on the waiver map.

Those threats are ironic because the only reason E15 doesn’t receive the same waiver as E10 today, bringing down the cost of all gasoline, is a refiners’ victory in a court challenge to EPA’s decision to allow the waiver to extend to E15. EPA and lawmakers sensibly granted a one-pound waiver to E10 30 years ago because E10’s increased RVP was offset by reduced pollutants in the fuel. In 2019, EPA extended
that waiver to E15 because it offsets even more gasoline pollutants and has a lower RVP than E10. Refiners sued EPA over that change and won.

The current eight state non-waiver would allow E15 to be sold year-round in those states, but unless a law like S. 2707, allowing the current one-pound E10 RVP waiver to also apply to E15, is passed between now and next summer, all ethanol-blended gasoline, including E10, will be made with lower RVP blendstock from June 1 to September 15 each year in those states. The latest OPIS price reports put the
Chicago spot price for 7.8-pound RVP RBOB, the most likely “base” gas used in a “no-waiver” scenario, around 25 cents higher than nine-pound conventional gasoline. If refiners are truly concerned about costs and supplies of summer gasoline under a patchwork
waiver scenario, they would support legislation extending the one-pound waiver to E15. Some say they have indicated their support. That remains to be seen.