E15 fuel could save you money at the pump — but at what cost?

The White House is trying to save Americans money at the gas pump, but a University of Minnesota professor says its plan could cost consumers more in the long run.

During a visit in Iowa last week, President Joe Biden announced he will be temporarily lifting the summer ban on the use of E15 fuel. Iowa is a key producer of the corn-based fuel additive ethanol.

Most gas used by American drivers is blended with 10% ethanol — fittingly, E15 contains 15% ethanol.

By allowing more stations to offer the blend, also known as Unleaded 88, the Biden administration hopes to help drivers save money.

“E15, in most areas, can save motorists anywhere from 5 to 10 cents on average,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis with GasBuddy. “In some extreme cases, you may find E15 for as much as 40 cents a gallon less than regular.”

While it’s cost-saving, there are limitations on how you can use it. For example, De Haan said only cars 2001 and newer can use the fuel. He says to check the vehicle’s owner manual before filling up with E15.

Most small engines can’t use it either, including lawnmowers.

“Another concern, potentially, is [that] E15 packs a little bit less of a punch,” De Haan said. “… It’s very insignificant, but it’s not impossible that some motors may see a very slight drop in fuel efficiency.”

While the up-front savings are ideal, Jason Hill — a professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota — believes it’ll cost drivers more in the long run.

“The pro is that it provides a guaranteed market for corn farmers for their product,” Hill said. “The cons are that consumers and taxpayers pay more for it.”

He says a bigger focus on corn-based energy leads to more government help for…

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