Environmental experts say the future of ethanol is at a crossroads despite years of benefits to consumers’ wallets.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison recently led a study that labeled corn ethanol as possibly being more pollutant than gasoline, an impact that has been underestimated for decades.
The questions regarding the steps for the alternative fuels couldn’t come at a worse time with increasing global conflicts and oil trading at around $100 a barrel.
It is unknown if the United States Environmental Protection Agency will use the study results at face value or adjust requirements, but any type of stoppage or altering of ethanol-gasoline blends would impact prices at the pump.
"We are reviewing the study and don’t have further comment at this time," an EPA spokesperson told FOX Weather.
Because of continuous fluctuating prices, studies have had difficulty capturing the exact monetary benefit of ethanol usage but have pegged the savings from as low seven cents to as much as a half a dollar per gallon.
AAA says drivers on average are paying around $3.54 per gallon, meaning that if ethanol was not part of the equation, consumers could be paying significantly more.
"Renewable fuels provide a very large measure of protection against the economic impact of future disruptions," Dr. Philip K. Verleger, Jr., an energy economist, stated in a recent study.
Dr. Verleger put the annual savings around $250 for an average household.
But Lauren Fix, an automotive expert and analyst with The Car Coach & Car Smarts Brands, believes gas prices are only one side of the story.
Fix said consumers are likely paying more for other corn-related products because of machinery and efforts being devoted to the ethanol process.
"Anything that is made of corn, which are a lot of things, costs more. We're not making corn for food. We’re making corn for gasoline, which is driving prices," Fix said.
Policymakers are expected to continue the debate of the impact of ethanol and of the future renewable fuel standards through early summer.