The Work at Hand for E15 Market Expansion

By Bob Dinneen | July 22, 2011

Back in October, I wrote on the RFA blog, “The E-Xchange,” about the steps that would be necessary to make E15 the standard fuel available in the United States, in much the same way E10 is today.  With the issuing of the U.S. EPA’s label for E15 now final, the industry can move forward with more confidence to educate and assist gasoline marketers, retailers and consumers in making E15 widely available. 

First, working with Growth Energy, the RFA has submitted health effects testing and worked to fulfill the fuel registration process that must be conducted for any new fuel.  That process is now nearly complete.
Second, through our Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition, the RFA is researching the efficacy of current firefighting tools and techniques to address any E15-related incidents.  Additionally, RFA is working with local fire marshals to ensure existing fueling infrastructure can operate with E15 blends and that they provide the go-ahead to sell E15 blends.

Third, the RFA is working through ASTM, the standard-setting body for fuels, to certify E15’s octane rating as required by the Federal Trade Commission.  Pure ethanol has an octane rating upwards of 109, compared to a standard gallon of unleaded gasoline octane possessing a rating of 87.  Octane is an important component in fuel to ensure it ignites and burns properly in the engine. 

Additional federal regulations, such as Reid vapor pressure standards, and state-specific fuel regulations must be addressed.  In the case of the states, some are prepared to begin offering E15 immediately.  In Iowa, for instance, the regulatory path is nearly cleared and some retailers have made clear their desire to offer E15 blends.  Other states are not as far along in the process, and through the RFA’s technical committee, we are working with the appropriate state officials and other stakeholders to address these needs.

It is important to remember the same challenges were presented to the widespread adoption of E10.  With perseverance and a bit of elbow grease, the industry has been successful in removing those remaining barriers to E10 blends and the same will be done for E15—and it will not take the nearly 30 years it did for E10.

Equally important to the regulatory work that is currently ongoing are RFA and industry efforts to educate fuel marketers, retailers and consumers alike.  The final E15 label issued by EPA is an improvement from the agency’s original design and should not unintentionally frighten consumers away from using the fuel.  But that doesn’t mean that our efforts to make stakeholders comfortable with E15 are not needed.  To the contrary, they are more important today than they have ever been.

Through the RFA market development team, and specifically through the Blend Your Own ethanol campaign with the American Coalition for Ethanol and a larger group of state corn grower associations, the industry is actively and aggressively reaching out to gasoline marketers and retailers to educate them about ethanol use, encourage them to install blender pumps and other ethanol-related infrastructure, and providing them all the tools they need to move forward.  In the coming months and years, these efforts will be intensified until we are maximizing the amount of domestic ethanol this nation is consuming. 

On a separate note, but still related, the RFA is also working with fuel retailers to address the concerns created by EPA’s approach.  Namely, the RFA is working with the Petroleum Marketers’ Association of America, the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America, the National Association of Convenience Stores and others to gain reintroduction of the Renewable Fuels Marketing Act.  This bill is a commonsense approach to deal with liability concerns raised by retailers.

This may seem a daunting task but the industry has no other choice than to do the hard work necessary to drive ethanol market expansion and accelerate this industry’s evolution.  As we have clearly seen, no one is going to do it for us.  The success of E15 and the future of this industry are firmly in our capable hands. 

Author: Bob Dinneen
President and CEO of the
Renewable Fuels Association
(202) 289-3835