Summer gas will run dirty, but cheap, to cut reliance on Russian oil

But it might only be a band-aid to hyperinflation.
Brad Bergan
Gas being pumped (left), and a gold colored arrow pointing up above printed bills (right).1, 2

The world is fast approaching an energy crisis.

This is ostensibly why U.S. President Joe Biden is revealing plans on Tuesday to delay soaring gas prices by extending the availability of high biofuel blends of fuel over the summer, according to an initial report from Reuters.

This comes in the wake of Russia's pivot to what some call the "Petroruble" — where, under pressure from Western sanctions, Russia declared it would only accept payments for oil in its own currency, the Ruble (except for some "friendly" countries").

Hopes are high that this step from the White House will curb the effects of inflation on the average consumer, which reached a 40-year high on Tuesday. Whether it's more than a delay, we can't say.

Are the savings from E15 gas worth significant damage to the environment?

In Menlo, Iowa, President Joe Biden is declaring that E15 gasoline will be approved for use for the entire summer of 2022 — in a bid to keep gas prices from soaring to unconscionable heights. Notably, this runs parallel to a move from the previous (Trump) administration. That turn to biofuels stretched from May 2019 to July 2021, but savings to gas consumers will probably be small compared to the outsized damage that could be inflicted on the environment from these biofuels.

On the other hand, enabling E15 gas access will serve as a tremendous boost to the corn industry in the U.S., much to the dismay of Big Oil firms. But sadly, what's bad for major fossil fuel firms isn't always the best for the environment.

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Procured mainly from corn, E15 is comprised of roughly 10.5 percent to 15 percent ethanol, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). But it's typically not available in the summer because of its links to smog. Automotive fuels that are high in ethanol can release extra vapor, which, in turn, interacts with sunlight, and increases ozone levels at ground level, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Biofuels are not helpful to the environment, but could yield short-term savings against high Russian oil prices

However, E15 has yet to be linked to larger volumes of smoggy conditions than the more consistently used E10 gasoline, according to Gizmodo. But, since 2007, all of the gas available contains some ethanol, thanks to the Renewable Fuel Standard — an EPA program that requires all available gas at pumps to include at least 10 percent ethanol (E10).

This was introduced with hopes of making the U.S. more independent in the oil industry and lowering the environmental toll. Sadly, the subsequent 15 years have shown the Renewable Fuel Standard's conceit of environmental benefits is simply unrealistic.

In other words, this move will likely have repercussions on the environment — but the U.S. leadership may feel forced to take this step in the wake of Russia declaring that all countries deemed unfriendly would have to purchase its oil with Rubles or crypto. This, in turn, was its response to huge sanctions from the U.S. and Europe, which were a response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It's a long line of causation to draw, but while the short-term effects will mean slight savings on gas this summer, one can't help but wonder if the environmental cost will be worth it in the long run.

This was developing news and was regularly updated as new information became available.

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