Natural gas trade groups in three states are urging lawmakers to allow butane-blend gasoline as a way to stretch the nation’s fuel supply and possibly reduce its rising price due to inflation and a global energy crunch. The Biden administration in April announced that it was extending the availability of a higher ethanol blend of gas, known as E15, during the summer months as a way to extend the fuel supply. Ethanol is a biofuel made from corn and other types of biomass and is used in small amounts in most gasoline. E15 is a gasoline blend that uses 15 percent ethanol, but it is available at just a fraction of the nation’s 150,000 gasoline stations. The use of E15 had been banned during the summer months because of concerns that increased evaporation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) could contribute to smog in hot weather. The leaders of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia and the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association recently sent a letter to Sen. Joe Manchin, the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, urging that gasoline blended with butane, a byproduct of natural gas, also be allowed. Butane is a natural gas liquid that can also be used as petrochemical feedstock. “Butane has always been relied upon as a historically cost-effective way to blend gasoline during periods of supply disruptions in the summer. Most recently, the Biden Administration issued an RVP waiver in the spring of 2021 when the Colonial Pipeline was offline, allowing gasoline blenders to utilize butane to increase supply and lower costs for the consumer,” the letter states. The groups also argue that butane is cheaper than ethanol and that butane-blend fuel can be used by all gasoline stations. Butane faces the same issue as ethanol, a high vapor pressure that means it is more likely to contribute to smog and pollution in the summer months. The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for issuing waivers to allow the blends to be used in summer and the groups urged that the EPA grant such a waiver for butane use. “The butane markets have always been relied upon in the past when the nation was facing gasoline supply disruptions or price volatility. We believe that this is the most effective way to help lower fuel prices if this is truly the Administration’s objective,” the letter states.
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