In light of a refinery shutdown of the BP plant in Whiting, Indiana that produces 240,000-barrels-per-day, the Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide consumers relief at the pump. Late last week, gas prices jumped an average of 80 cents per gallon overnight in several states including Illinois, Michigan Indiana, Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin as well as other states including Iowa.“The Whiting refinery outage demonstrates, once again, the folly of relying too heavily on one source of motor fuel. It’s worth noting that the refinery represents just 6 percent of the Midwest region’s refining capacity (and just 1 percent of national refining capacity); yet retail gas prices in some Midwest markets have spiked by 50 cents per gallon or more,” said Dinneen. “This is exactly why we need to further diversify our nation’s fuel supply and allow more renewable fuels by removing arcane barriers erected by the oil companies and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Using more low-cost ethanol would absolutely help insulate consumers from these kinds of price shocks.”
Dinneen said that the total lost gasoline output, nearly 120,000 barrels per day, could be offset by increasing ethanol blends from E10 to E15. He sourced ethanol prices in the Chicago wholesale market as around $1 per gallon lower than gas. It should be noted that during the summer months, E15 is only allowed to be used by flex fuel vehicles although the rest of the year the ethanol blend can be used by all vehicles manufactured in 2001 or newer.
“That means, Dinneen said, “if refiners and blenders serving the Midwest market immediately switched to producing E15 to blunt the impacts of this refinery outage, gas prices would instantly fall by at least 5 cents per gallon and drivers in the Midwest would save about $6 million per day. In reality, the price impacts would likely be even more significant, as ramping up ethanol blending would immediately take the pressure off tightening gasoline stocks and ease wholesale gasoline prices.”
Dinned added, “EPA and the Obama Administration have all the tools they need to help alleviate this situation quickly. We call on EPA to immediately waive RVP requirements for E15 and also allow E12 blending—based on the fact that it is substantially similar to E10—in the Midwest region to facilitate expanded ethanol blending and blunt the consumer impacts of this refinery outage.”