Cooke: Cheaper fuel could be win for state economy


Rep. Franklin Cooke is a Democrat serving New Castle.

The summer season is a critical time for Delaware’s economy. Millions of locals and out-of-state visitors will flock to Rehoboth Beach and other tourist destinations, creating billions of dollars in local economic activity. The season supports thousands of small businesses and jobs, with the tourism industry ranking as the state’s fourth-largest employer in 2021.

Many of the visitors who support our economy drive here from nearby states, like New York and Pennsylvania. Like most drivers, the price of gas plays a key role in their decision about whether to take a road trip to our state and spend their money here. Everyone knows how expensive gas can be, but not everyone is aware that a fuel called “E15” is about 25 cents cheaper per gallon than E10 fuel, which is the most common type of fuel that drivers fill up with.

E15 refers to the amount of ethanol in the gas. E15 has 15%, while E10 has 10%. They are very similar, but outdated federal regulations currently prohibit E15 from being sold in many parts of the country, including Delaware, during the summer months. Millions of drivers lose access to a cheaper gas option when they need it most, and it could hold back many tourists from making a road trip to our state. The Environmental Protection Agency often issues a waiver allowing E15 sales during the summer, but those decisions are unpredictable and make it harder for cheaper E15 to be widely available.

Though there is bipartisan support in Congress to remove E15 fuel restrictions and lower gas prices for Americans year-round, it seems this legislation has been stalled in the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works. Fortunately, one of our U.S. senators and chair of that committee, Democrat Tom Carper, can help lead the way in removing the restrictions on E15 fuel.

Sen. Carper’s support for E15 wouldn’t just help our economy by making gas cheaper; it would also support corn farmers in our state, who benefit from a robust market for corn-based ethanol. Corn is Delaware’s most important crop by production value, and it’s in our state’s economic interest to support the corn market.

Not only that, but cheaper E15 gas also plays a critical role in lowering greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change, by using less traditional fossil fuels. Instead of drilling for fossil fuels like natural gas and crude oil, we can use more corn-based ethanol to fill up our cars, as we transition from combustion engines to electric vehicles. As a leader in fighting climate change, I know Sen. Carper is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by any means possible, and allowing drivers to use less fossil fuels is an important tool he can help us take advantage of now.

As we head into the summer season and local businesses prepare for an influx of visitors, it’s important for us to recognize that we can do more to unleash our full economic potential. We can make it easier for families to come to our state, to visit the shore and to spend their money here. We can also support Delaware farmers, who contribute so much to our state’s economy. Allowing the year-round sale of E15 gas is a commonsense step that Congress can take action on now, and I hope Sen. Carper will help make that happen for our state.

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at civiltalk@iniusa.org.

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