U.S. inflation is at a 40-year high. President Joe Biden wants to waive rules that limit sales of certain gas products. He’s hoping to lower prices at the pumps—and improve Democrats’ prospects at the polls.
Ethanol is a biofuel (derived from living matter). Corn is the most common ethanol component, but sugarcane and other grains can be used too. E10 gasoline sold in the United States contains 10% ethanol.
Some people think ethanol reduces automobile emissions, including carbon monoxide and other pollutants. Ethanol’s biggest plus? It currently costs less than gasoline.
Ethanol has some downsides. Some studies show it harms car engines and isn’t as effective as traditional gasoline. Plus, growing crops for fuel uses land that could produce crops for food.
So why the ethanol push? After all, the United States has plenty of oil and gas, an oil derivative.
First, a large number of U.S. oil reserves exist in Alaska or California, far from the majority of people who need them. Without transcontinental pipelines, it’s sometimes cheaper and easier to buy oil from other countries.
The United States also wants oil and gas alternatives because of environmental concerns.
Many people believe those reasons are rooted more in politics than in stewardship concerns.
Price increases on gas and other necessities increased challenges for President Biden and his fellow Democrats. To temper those, the President announced an emergency act allowing the sale of a 15% ethanol-gasoline (E15) blend. That blend is usually banned from June 1 to September 15. It can add to smog in high temperatures.
Yet officials now say summer E15 sales probably won’t affect air quality significantly.
The administration says E15 could save drivers about 10 cents per gallon. But there’s a catch: Only about 2,300 gas stations out of more than 100,000 carry E15. Many vendors simply haven’t invested in a product they can’t sell all year. The stations selling E15 are mostly in the Republican-leaning Midwest and South.
Chet Thompson, president and CEO of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, says he wants financial relief for consumers, “but an unlawful executive order is not how to solve the problem.”
President Biden admits allowing E15 gasoline is a small step. “It’s not going to solve all our problems. But it’s going to help some people,” he says.
Many American consumers hope so—especially heading into summer road trip season.
Meanwhile, petroleum refiners (who have their own agenda) have blasted the ethanol decision. They say the only “emergency” is the President’s approval ratings.
Why? Debates over the environment are good reminders of being stewards of God’s creation. They also point out that all humans have agendas that can be at odds with God’s call to justice, kindness, and humility. (Micah 6:8)