OPINION: One more time: Yes, you probably can E15. Really.

By Ron Lamberty, senior vice president, American Coalition for Ethanol | March 31, 2021

One of the greatest frustrations I’ve had over the past 20+ years of helping fuel marketers add higher ethanol to their product slate has been trying to convince station owners they really, truly, not just saying this because I’m an ethanol guy, can store and sell E15 using their existing equipment. The anti-ethanol misinformation campaign, which convinced station owners E15 required all new fueling infrastructure and would destroy every car that used it, has been so effective that regulators and elected officials quickly established rules and regulations, essentially slaying imaginary E15 dragons.

Here’s reality: A dozen or so years ago, the ethanol industry asked EPA to approve E15 for use in standard vehicles. Although some states were considering E20 or E25 at the time, the E15 blend was chosen primarily because it could be sold using existing equipment. The tests that make up Underwriters Laboratories’ UL 87 listing for petroleum equipment were for up to 15 percent alcohol, and after passing those tests, most fuel equipment manufacturers guaranteed their products for up to 15 percent alcohol. In addition, the UL standards for gasoline and alcohol blends in underground storage tank (UST) systems required tanks to be compatible with all blends of gasoline and alcohol up to 100 percent of either. Yet when E15 was approved by EPA, the fearmongers quickly mongered an amazing and long-lasting amount of fear, wailing and gnashing their teeth about liability and imaginary equipment destruction of anything touched by E15, although none of it was backed up with real-world scientific proof, and none of the ghost stories have come true after 10 years of E15 sales.

But in January of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule on E15 labeling and UST system compatibility that could reduce consumers’ unnecessary fear when considering using E15 and make it much easier for station owners to prove their equipment is compatible should they want to sell E15. The proposed rule would change or eliminate the current blaze orange E15 label EPA mandated when it believed all the fictional E15 horror stories, which have not come true in any fashion in over 10 years of actually using the fuel in real cars and trucks. EPA has proposed to apply logic when proving compatibility of UST systems that could be used for storing “blends above 10 percent ethanol,” rather than the incredibly daunting gauntlet retailers currently must run to store and dispense E15. The current standards require proof no other fuel must provide even though, given UL’s definition for gas and alcohol blends being 100 percent of either product, any retailer selling E10 (which is pretty much every retailer in the U.S.) would have to have a UST system compatible with E15. And E30, and E85, by the way.

In their proposed rule, EPA mentions ACE’s “Flex Check” compatibility tool, which is part of our retailer focused flexfuelforward.com website. It lists most fuel storage dispensing equipment used in retail stations, and we’d like to think it helped make our point about E15 compatibility to EPA. If you're a retailer and you would like to make your point to EPA and tell them you’d like to have the option to offer E15 to your customers (even if you don't want to do it right now) you can comment on EPA's proposed rule between now and April 19th by going to regulations.gov/docket/EPA-HQ-OAR-2020-0448 and telling them you support the changes they are proposing to E15 labeling and UST compatibility. If you need some help in making those points, feel free to contact us, or go to our Action Center which can be found at votervoice.net/ETHANOL/0/home.