Large retailer will start selling E15 this year

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2014

A large convenience store operator today announced it would sell E15 this year, a move that ethanol proponents hailed as a major breakthrough.

MAPCO Express Inc. said it aims to sell the fuel — which contains 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline — in 100 gas stations. That would more than double the number of gas stations across the country currently selling the fuel.

In a statement, MAPCO said it “prides itself in being an innovative retailer.”

“We have a long track record of offering new products to our customers, and E15 fits in nicely with our current product lineup,” said Dan Gordon, vice president of business development. “Ethanol-based fuels have been a lower per-gallon cost alternative over the past few years, and this should allow us to offer our customers additional fuel options.”

Tennessee-based MAPCO is a wholly owned subsidiary of Delek US Holdings Inc. and operates 362 convenience stores in seven states, more than half of them in Tennessee. The company said it would offer the fuel in all new stations and a select number of its “mega store” locations.

EPA has approved E15 for use in model years 2001 and newer. The fuel is now sold in 70 stations in 14 states, mostly in the Midwest and Great Plains regions. MAPCO is the first major company-owned retailer to offer the fuel at its stations.

The company’s decision to sell the fuel comes as the Obama administration is weighing whether the country has the capacity to overcome the “blend wall,” or the limit to the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline (E&ENews PM, Nov. 15, 2013).

Ethanol producers say that the wall was manufactured by the oil industry and that E15 can boost the amount of ethanol in the market. A group of oil industry members, automakers and small-engine manufacturers are opposed to its introduction in the market, though, because of concerns that it will damage car and boat engines.

Tom Buis, CEO of ethanol trade group Growth Energy, said MAPCO’s announcement today “will end the debate about whether or not consumers want E15.”

“Growth Energy also believes that when given the choice, consumers will seek the fuel that costs less, improves the performance of their vehicles and is better for our environment,” Buis said.

But American Petroleum Institute spokesman Carlton Carroll said his group still has concerns about E15, citing studies done by the Coordinating Research Council, an oil- and auto-industry-funded group (Greenwire, Jan. 29, 2013).

“The vast majority of cars on the road today were not designed to use E15, and surveys show that the majority of consumers don’t know that, in many cases, it can damage their vehicles and void the car’s warranty,” Carroll said. “In fact, research by the automakers and oil industries show that E15 fuel may cause significant mechanical problems in millions of cars on the road today.”

The auto club AAA said it also remains concerned that gas stations would sell E15, given the possibility for consumer confusion and harm.

“AAA urges stations to suspend the sale of E15 until additional gas pump labeling and consumer education efforts are implemented to mitigate problems for drivers,” AAA spokesman Michael Green said.