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Biden to allow higher-ethanol fuel sales in summer to check gas prices

The move comes after Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions and boycotts that followed launched retail gasoline prices to record highs, a vulnerability for Biden's fellow Democrats in November's congressional elections.

A gas pump selling E15, a gasoline with 15 percent of ethanol, is seen in Mason City
A gas pump selling E15, a gasoline with 15 percent of ethanol, is seen in Mason City, Iowa, on May 18, 2015.
Jim Young/REUTERS
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WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden will unveil plans on Tuesday to extend the availability of higher biofuels-blended gasoline during summer to curb soaring fuel costs and to cut reliance on foreign energy sources, senior administration officials said.

The move will allow Americans to keep buying E15, a gasoline that uses a 15% ethanol blend, from June 1 to Sept. 15. While E15 is only 10 cents cheaper on average and is less "energy dense," meaning drivers would need to buy more fuel, it should still help lower fuel expenses, they told reporters on a call previewing the announcement.

"Those savings can add up, especially during the summer months, when fuel is elevated and as the supply emergency caused by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's aggression continues," a senior administration official said.

The move comes after Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions and boycotts that followed launched retail gasoline prices to record highs, a vulnerability for Biden's fellow Democrats in November's congressional elections.

Last month, Biden announced the United States would sell 180 million barrels of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at a rate of 1 million barrels per day starting in May, the biggest release from the stockpile since it was created in the 1970s.

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Biden will make the E15 extension announcement during a visit to POET Bioprocessing, the largest biofuels producer in the United States in Menlo, Iowa.

To make the change, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to issue a national emergency waiver closer to June, the officials said. The EPA is also considering additional action to allow for the use of E15 year-round, the White House said.

But success is not guaranteed. The courts struck down a prior bid by Biden's predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, in 2019 to extend a waiver that allowed year-round sales of E15.

The officials previewing Biden's announcement said his administration would us a different "approach" and "authority" than Trump, but did not offer details.

They also said the EPA would work with states to ensure there would be no "significant" negative impact on summer air quality due to the extended sale of E15, whose use in the hottest months is restricted due to smog-related concerns.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman.)

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