What’s In Your Fuel — The Gov’t Allows More Ethanol In Pump Gas

Average ethanol blend percentages in the US.

Ethanol in our pump gas is nothing new. In fact, the current government regulations allow for up to 10-percent of gasoline sold at the pump to be mixed with ethanol. That is, until the summer of 2022, when the EPA issued a Nationwide Fuel Waiver allowing for up to 15-percent of pump fuel’s content to be ethanol. The waiver was extended seven times over the course of the summer, comprising the entirety of the Summer Volatility Control Period (when you get the so-called “summer blend” gasoline).

Ethanol In Fuel

Anyone who has paid attention to the development of ethanol for automotive use knows that besides being cheaper than gasoline, it has a higher octane rating. However, it has a lower energy density than gasoline, so it requires more volume to make the same horsepower. Additionally, ethanol can be detrimental to rubber seals and certain plastic components in an automotive fuel system.

To that end, modern fuel systems are built to withstand up to a 10-percent concentration of ethanol in the fuel, and the vehicle’s ECU is tuned with that taken into account. Although the Department of Energy does say that modern vehicles (2001 and newer) can operate on E15, it also concedes that fuel economy (miles per gallon) is generally lower with increased levels of ethanol in engines that are optimized for gasoline.

In a report published December 1, 2022 by the US Energy Information Administration, it was revealed that as of April 29, 2022, the amount of ethanol allowable in pump gasoline was increased to 15 percent, nationwide. That temporary waiver was effectively made permanent for the entire Summer Volatility Control Period thanks to a total of seven temporary waivers. Additionaly, the report stated that over the summer, all the gasoline in the United States contained an average of 10.5-percent ethanol (which, in and of itself meets the requirements of being called “E15” by the DoE’s definition), which is the highest rate on record.

In the summer of 2022, more ethanol was blended into US gasoline than ever before.

Reasons For Allowing E15

There are several reasons that E15 was allowed over the summer. First, is that during the pandemic, a significant amount of refining and production capacity was lost. With fuel demand increasing to pre-lockdown levels, further “cutting” of the available fuel supply with readily available ethanol increased the available amount of fuel, just like…

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