Fuel stations to resume offering E15 on Sept. 16

Source: By Erin Voegsel, Ethanol Producer Magazine • Posted: Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The ethanol industry is celebrating the ability of fuel retail stations to again offer E15 to customers for use in all 2001 and newer vehicles beginning Sept. 16.

Retailers are largely prohibited from selling E15 from June 1 through Sept. 15 because the fuel blend is not currently covered by the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) volatility waiver that allows E10 to be sold during that same timeframe. Efforts are currently underway to extend the RVP waiver to E15.

Growth Energy has pointed out that the EPA has failed to account for the fact that higher ethanol blends are less volatile, and that fuel such as E15 further decreases emissions, replacing toxic additives in gasoline that have been proven to cause cancer, asthma, and groundwater contamination and smog.

According to Growth Energy, the fuel blend is currently being offered by approximately 330 fuel retail locations in 26 states.

“Tomorrow is a day to celebrate consumer choice,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “Motorists across the country will have the choice to fill up with a high performance, high octane fuel that is less expensive and has tremendous environmental and health benefits. And, while the end of the RVP restriction is cause for celebration, it also is a reminder that our current fuel regulations must be updated.”

“While the EPA has the authority to grant E15 the same waiver, they have refused to do so—even though higher blends such as E15 help reduce smog and emissions,” Skor continued. “Furthermore, Congress also has the ability to address this issue before the end of the year, and we have seen that there is clear bipartisan support for this issue in both the House and Senate.

“Now is the time to grant RVP relief so retailers can offer consumers higher biofuel blends, such as E15, year-round. The initial waiver for E10 was granted 26 years ago, long before E15 was even part of the discussion. Now is the time for EPA and Congress to act and update our fuel regulations to match the market realities of the 21st century,” Skor concluded.

Ron Lamberty, senior vice president for the American Coalition for Ethanol, indicated the RVP regulation makes offering E15 less attractive to some retailers. “This rule is preventing gas station owners from offering E15 to their customers, because they don’t want the hassle of changing fuel blends twice a year or telling regular E15 customers they can’t use it during the three months of the year people travel most,” he said. “More than 70 percent of consumers say price is most important to them, and E15 is usually 2 to 10 cents cheaper than the lowest priced gas most people use. So this restriction makes station owners cut off the sale of cleaner, higher-octane E15 at a time when drivers could save the most, and the only thing that’s different is the calendar. It’s frustrating.”

Lamberty said more c-store and gas station owners are considering E15, following market-leading convenience store chains that have recently added the higher ethanol blend. “When respected convenience store companies like Sheetz, Kum & Go, Thornton’s, and RaceTrac, are selling E15, other retailers are going to want to sell it, too,” Lamberty said. “C-store owners want to give their customers better products at lower prices, and they can do that with E15 when this RVP problem is fixed.”

“There are some legislative solutions to the RVP problem being offered in Congress, and we’re happy some fuel retailers are letting their representatives know they support the change,” Lamberty said. “Hopefully, something will get done, drivers will be able to buy the fuel of their choice, and we won’t have to circle this date on the calendar next year.”

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association noted that in partnership with Growth Energy, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is scheduled to sign a proclamation on Sept. 16 naming that day “E15 Day” in Iowa.

Monte Shaw, executive director of the IRFA, said E15 is important to Iowans’ pocketbooks and to air quality, competition at the pump, and jobs within the state.

“With more stations offering E15 than ever before, even more Iowa motorists can once again reap the low-cost benefits of choosing E15,” Shaw said. “Motorists have logged hundreds of millions of trouble-free miles traveled on E15 while achieving essentially the same mileage as E10.  Considering E15 is more widely available in Iowa than ever before, I expect E15 sales to skyrocket over the next several months.”