Pushing for Year-Round Access to E15

The Renewable Fuels Association has been pushing for a change that would ensure consumers have year-round access to E15.
By Bob Dinneen | July 26, 2017

When consumers go to fuel up their vehicles, I want to make sure they have more choices than just gasoline. That’s why the Renewable Fuels Association has been pushing for a change that would ensure consumers have year-round access to 15 percent ethanol (E15).

Because of an outdated Environmental Protection Agency regulation, retail gas stations are essentially prohibited from selling E15 in more than two-thirds of the nation’s gasoline market during the summer ozone control season, from June 1 to Sept. 15. Marketers are reluctant to offer fuels to their customers seasonally, so the regulation has the effect of being a permanent barrier to E15 growth.

E15 is legally approved for use in all vehicles built since 2001, meaning E15 is an approved fuel for more than 90 percent of the cars, trucks and SUVs on the road today. Further, more than 80 percent of 2017 model-year cars and light trucks have been explicitly approved by the automakers to use E15. E15 is currently sold at about 700 retail gas stations in 29 states. It is estimated that more than 750 million trouble-free miles have been driven on E15 since its commercial introduction in 2012.

Earlier this year, Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., introduced S. 517, which would resolve the issue by extending the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver to ethanol blends above E10. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works recently held a hearing on the legislation, providing a forum to discuss why a legislative fix is necessary.

The RFA “enthusiastically supports” the legislation, I wrote to Senate EPW Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and ranking member Tom Carper, D-Del. Major retailers like Thornton’s, Kum & Go, Sheetz, Murphy USA and RaceTrac already offer the fuel blend. And in 2016, HWRT Oil Co. became the first terminal operator to offer pre-blended E15 at wholesale terminals in Illinois, Indiana and Arkansas.

Sheetz is the largest E15 retailer in the country, offering the fuel blend at more than 190 of its stores throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. At the recent Senate EPW hearing on the bill, Mike Lorenz, Sheetz’s executive vice president of Petroleum Supply, noted that the retailer has had experience with E15. “Even though we have done little to market the product, customers are finding it,” he said. “They are finding it because it is 3 to 10 cents cheaper than regular gasoline and is 88 octane, instead of 87. That’s what motivates fuel purchases—cost and performance. They don’t care about fuel volatility, ethanol concentration or the public policy behind renewable fuels. And after millions of E15 transactions by thousands of E15 customers purchasing millions of gallons of E15, and driving millions of miles on the fuel, one thing is clear—we have not had a single customer complaint. Our customers like this fuel. And now, they also demand it.”

As Fischer said at the same hearing, “Good business decisions rely on accurate information and stability. Providing the RVP waiver for E15 would ensure retailers have the certainty they need to make sound business decisions that will lead to greater economic growth opportunities in our local communities. … Renewable solutions are out there to fulfill our nation’s energy needs. E15 is one of them. American families should be able to decide which fuel they put into their vehicles. Our bill would ensure retailers can offer consumers consistent choices at the pump year-round with less confusion and red tape.”

I couldn’t agree more with Fischer. Ethanol is the cleanest and highest-octane source of fuel on the planet. Greater consumer access to higher-level blends like E15 remains our top priority and we are committed to working with leaders in Congress and the administration to make that a reality.

Author: Bob Dinneen
President and CEO
Renewable Fuels Association