President Joe Biden's plan to reduce the price of gas by allowing the sale of higher-ethanol fuel this summer may make corn farmers and their elected representatives happy. But the move also has irked environmentalists who see ethanol as a climate-change villain.
Biden made his announcement Tuesday during a trip to Iowa, where corn — and ethanol — are crucial to the state economy. He said the Environmental Protection Agency would issue an emergency waiver from the Clean Air Act that will permit the sale of gasoline that is 15 percent ethanol, 5 percent more than the typical blend, from June 1 to Sept. 15. The change will lower gas prices by about 10 cents a gallon at the 2,300 gas stations equipped to pump it, the Biden administration says.
To environmentalists, that's a small benefit compared to the damage the decision could do to efforts to reduce the country's carbon emissions.
“What the president is doing is the definition of short-term thinking,” said Carroll Muffett, president and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law. “The goal here shouldn’t be to bring gas prices down by 10 cents in the near term by increasing emissions that will endanger large parts of the population.”
Although ethanol was embraced more than a decade ago as a renewable fuel, its green reputation has eroded. Scientists have found evidence that increased corn production for ethanol could increase greenhouse gas emissions; a study published in February said ethanol may be worse for the climate than gasoline.