Gas Station Owners Battle Ethanol Lobby Over Fuel Formula

Source: By Ryan Tracy, Wall Street Journal • Posted: Thursday, October 4, 2012

Some drivers worry that gasoline with a higher ethanol content could harm their older cars’ engines.

The U.S. ethanol industry’s latest push to expand is off to a slow start, with many gas-station owners wary about a new gasoline blend containing 15% ethanol.

Since the blend known as E15 first hit the market for regular cars in July, eight fuel stations in Kansas and Iowa have started to sell it, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol trade group. The group says regulators in three other states—Nebraska, South Dakota, and Illinois—have cleared it for sale and expects stations there to offer the fuel soon.

But concerns over storing the fuel and burning it in older vehicles have stalled its adoption. Most stations are in “sit back and wait” mode, in the words of R.J. Rymas, director of fuels for Rockford, Ill.-based gas-station owner Road Ranger LLC.

“Right now I don’t think it opens up that large of a market share,” said Mr. Rymas, whose company has 80 gas-station locations in six states. “I have not seen anybody in any market that I operate in that is planning on doing it.”

Wide adoption of E15 would swell the market for fuel ethanol, a necessary expansion if the U.S. is to meet federal mandates for blending increasing amounts of ethanol in gasoline. Gasoline sold in the U.S. today typically contains about 10% ethanol made from corn, and the ethanol industry has waged a yearslong battle to get federal regulators to certify E15.