OPINION: Big Oil really doesn’t want you to sell E15

By Ron Lamberty, senior vice president at the American Coalition for Ethanol | December 05, 2018

If you own or operate a convenience store or gas station, you’ve probably heard something about E15 over the last several years, and most of it probably wasn’t very good. Maybe even frightening. Hundreds of thousands in installation and equipment costs to sell a fuel nobody wants, nobody can legally use, and oh, dear Lord, the LIABILITY!  (Which kind of flies in the face of all the other things you’re supposed to be concerned about—I mean, if you truly believe nobody wants E15 and can’t use it even if they somehow DID want it, what would you be liable for?) It’s all very confusing.

Don’t feel bad. It’s confusing because people who don’t want ethanol to get any more market share than it already has (the oil industry) have hired professional confusers and frighteners to make reasonable people doubt and be “ascareda” E15.

But Sheetz isn’t afraid of E15. Kwik Trip, RaceTrac, Family Express, Kum & Go, and Thornton's aren’t. Casey’s was a little afraid, but after trying E15 in 17 stations, they’re going to be the biggest E15 retailer in the world after they put it in 500 more locations. Do those companies strike you as the kind of operators who spend money and take on liability to offer products no one will buy? You don’t know those companies' names because they take stupid chances with their money… or their reputation.

Maybe those big retailers are selling E15 because they're the only ones who can afford to do it? Nope. Wrong again. With E15 in particular, there’s a good chance your current equipment is already compatible, or that making your site compatible would cost $4,000 dollars, not $400,000 dollars. But we want you to check, because contrary to what ethanol haters tell you, the ethanol industry has no interest in putting our fuel in tanks where it doesn’t belong or in engines that aren’t supposed to use it. Let’s face it. If ethanol or E15 did the things the misinformation merchants said it would do, we would be the dumbest industry on earth to try and sell more of it. And the oil industry would be even dumber to try and stop us!

You can get a link to find out if you’ve got compatible equipment at flexfuelforward.com, and you can also hear from people like Bruce Vollan, Charlie Good, and Gwen and Barry McDiarmid, who are single-store owners making more money than they’ve ever made after adding E15 to their product mix—without spending a lot of money on equipment. Small- and medium-sized chains like Jetz in Wisconsin, Petro Serve USA in North Dakota, and Pump and Pantry in Nebraska did the same. And none of them have had to deal with damage claims or voided warranties. But hey, don’t take my word for it—I’m an ethanol guy. Ask people who are already doing it.

You won’t hear that from folks spreading E15 lies since the fuel was approved seven years ago. They want you to read dire predictions about what they say could happen, but they can’t show you real world problems—because they don’t exist. They’re not interested in your safety or the safety of your customers—their concern is the safety of oil market share and massive bank accounts.

PMAA is a leading critic of E15, yet in a recent letter to the FTC (trying to place more restrictions on E15) PMAA pointed out E15 is usually cheaper than regular gas, and retailers can "use E15 pricing as a marketing tool ... to draw customers into their station and steer them to the fuel that produces the greatest profit margin." PMAA even said "competitors who do not sell E15" are "at a significant competitive disadvantage" to those offering the higher ethanol blend.

Do those sound like reasons to NOT sell E15? E15 saves consumers money, while increasing E15 retailers’ margins and customer counts, and may cost very little to add. Maybe you won’t want to sell E15, but at very least, shouldn’t you find out if you could?