OPINION: Working to spread E15 nationwide

By Cassie Mullen, director of market development, Renewable Fuels Association | October 02, 2019

As we look back over the last few decades, who would have thought there would be a day where the ethanol industry would displace 10% of the U.S. gasoline market, eventually becoming a standard among millions of consumers and that today we would have added another major win to the books with year-round E15?

It was once said that disruption creates opportunity; that is exactly what is happening with E15 in the marketplace. When it comes to their future and the future of liquid fuels, retailers are facing challenges they have never experienced. The need for differentiation and a competitive offering is more critical than ever—and higher blends of ethanol fit perfectly into that plan of differentiation.  Because of this, state by state and station by station, ethanol is taking the nation by storm.

In a recent podcast by Fuels Institute, the point was made that most people think of the east and west coasts when it comes to what influences the fuel market, because that is typically where most trends are born. Conversely ethanol, a major market influencer, was born in the heartland of America and in reverse effect the E15 blend is about to converge on the bicoastal trend-setting states of New York and California.

And why not? How can anyone not sit up and take notice of what E15 blended gasoline has to offer? Not only is it a logical and economical solution to a myriad of environmental challenges we face as a nation, it has also been tested and embraced by consumers and automakers alike, having fueled over 10 million miles to date, as a fuel that is good for more than 90 percent of our domestic automotive fleet.     

Over the last few years, we have seen the addition of E15 in 31 states, by 13 of the nation’s top 20 retailers. These innovators are experiencing not only the opportunity to showcase a lower-priced, lower-carbon and higher-octane fuel on the marquee, they are also reaping the benefit of an average increase in overall sales of 20 percent. This is a huge win for the industry, after all; about half the U.S. population shops at a convenience store every day.   

Among the states, there are standouts that highlight the progress being made. For example, the state of Minnesota closely tracks E15 sales. Now that E15 can be sold year-round, there has been a significant increase of E15 in the summer months of 2019 much higher than sales in the previous year. If other states tracked sales, they would no doubt have seen a similar result.

RFA stands ready to help move forward to find solutions, we will be at the PEI/NACS show in Atlanta this month, and while the topics traditionally center around c-store basics like energy drinks and e-cigs, this year ethanol is at the top of the list. There are several main-stage education sessions that focus on how to safely and effectively enter the exciting world of ethanol. Making the docket at the largest global meeting for retail convenience stores, which boasts 25,000 attendees from than 70 countries, speaks volumes and shows that we are certainly causing disruption.

Check back here next month for a full report on what we learned at this landmark event. The next five years will move fast, and as we embark on a race for the top position in energy, ethanol is well-trained, and primed for the gold.