Summer volatility restrictions on E15 end, fuel now available

By Holly Jessen | September 16, 2013

E15 is again available after summer volatility restrictions ended Sept. 15. “I know Marion-area motorists are happy to once again have low-cost E15 as an option,” said Jim Becthold, manager of Iowa-based Linn Co-op Oil Co. Service, which started offering E15 in September 2012. “When stations like Linn Co-op are able to provide true fuel choice by not only offering E10, but also E15 and E85, the consumer wins.”

E15 is approved for use with vehicles model year 2001 and newer. However, because the U.S. EPA has awarded E10 a waiver to exceed the 9.0 pounds per-square-inch Reid Vapor Pressure requirement by 1 pound from June 1 to Sept. 15, but E15 does not have that same waiver, E15 retailers were forced to only sell E15 to flex-fuel drivers or shut down their E15 pumps.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, celebrated the fact that consumers can again access E15. “This is the beginning of what will be a great autumn of increased consumer choice,” he said. “Compared to gasoline, E15 saves approximately 10 to 15 cents a gallon. That adds up to very real savings, at the pump and over the span of time.”

Since E15 was first made available July 2012, it is now offered in approximately 40 gas stations in nine states, the RFA pointed out in an infograpic. The E15 waiver means that E15 can be used in approximately 77 percent of vehicles currently on the road and about 45 percent of new vehicles sold next year will be warranted and approved by automakers for use of E15. In addition, there have been zero known cases of engine damage, misfueling or liability claims due to use of E15. Still, critics continue trying to scare drivers away from using the fuel. “The fact is, ethanol does not ruin engines,” said mechanic Bobby Likis, host of the nationally syndicated radio auto show “Car Clinic,” and who recently released a new video about E15. “Of the 200,000 engines I’ve serviced, not one has been damaged by ethanol, not one. In fact, engines thrive on high octane and ethanol has it.”

Robert White, director of market development for RFA, anticipates that retailer interest in E15 will increase dramatically due to a variety of factors, including the economy, gas prices today and the experience of current E15 retailers, who are generating sales revenue by offering the fuel. “There are definite benefits for marketers who are ready to present consumers with a cost-saving, environmentally-friendly, domestic, renewable alternative fuel,” he said. “E15 is truly a win-win-win for retailers, consumers and the nation as a whole. Everyone benefits from increased availability of E15.”

The RFA offers retailers a step-by-step guide for preparing to offer E15 in its E15 Retailer Handbook.The group also pointed to information from the Petroleum Equipment Institute, which showed that the cost to install E15 equipment is lower than has been suggested in the past. In fact, RFA said, it averages less than $10,000 and can cost as little as $1,000. For more resources and information on E15, see a news release posted at the RFA’s website.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association also lauded the re-introduction of E15, which is again available for sale at eight Iowa gas stations. The group added that several more stations are in the process of registering to offer the fuel. “We’re excited to see E15 back in Iowa.  E15 provides many Iowans another low cost option compared to gasoline,” said Monte Shaw, IRFA executive director. “Based on conversations with retailers, consumers choosing E15 this morning have saved at least 20 cents per gallon compared to regular unleaded with no ethanol.”

More details on specific locations, an economic analysis showing E15 is the lowest cost option for many retailers, a survey of E15 retailers and a recent E15 promotion are available at the IRFA website.