The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on 25 January that it would complete a proposal to expand sales of higher E15 ethanol blends in time for summer, despite delays from the US federal government shutdown.
“I still think we can get the rule done in time,” Reuters reported Bill Wehrum, the agency’s assistant administrator for air and radiation, as saying.
US President Donald Trump had promised US farmers and biofuels producers that his administration would lift a long-time ban on summertime E15 sales to help boost demand for the corn-based fuel.
The ban had been imposed over concerns that E15 contributed to smog in hot weather.
Research had since shown that the 15% blend of ethanol into petrol may not increase smog relative to the E10 blend sold all year round, Reuters said.
The EPA had been tasked with finalising the rule before June to have it in place for the summer driving season but its workers were furloughed as a result of the US government shutdown from 22 December-25 January.
The shutdown – the longest in US history – stemmed from an impasse over Trump’s demand for US$5.7bn in federal funds for a US-Mexico border wall.
Reuters said farmers and biofuel producers had been lobbying to end the E15 ban to bolster demand, but the petroleum industry was opposed to a policy that would raise ethanol’s share of the fuel market.