OPINION: Mid-year E15 update

By Mike O’Brien, vice president of market development at Growth Energy | September 01, 2021

Labor Day weekend is here, signaling the close of another summer season for E15. This year, of course, hasn’t been without its setbacks, but despite this – E15 remains on track for growth. Americans have now driven nearly 25 billion miles with E15 – a clear indication of their confidence in fueling up with a higher ethanol blend that’s good for their car, the environment, and their wallet.

We started off the year in a tough spot, but the economic recovery from the pandemic has been gradual. Retail chains are picking up with their pilot programs and testing sites and starting to ramp up the capital investments that were frozen last year. The switch from E10/87 to E15/87 has been included in many of those tests, and have – as expected – exceeded expectations. We’ve seen tremendous success at the pump and satisfaction from both the customer and retailer.

We’ve also pressed forward on securing new sites to sell E15/UNL88. Since January, we’ve added over 200 new sites, bringing the total of retail sites offering E15 to over 2,500 in 30 states. We expect this number to grow as retailers are still being awarded their grant money through the USDA’s Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) into this fall. Terminals are also seeing the competitive advantage of E15. Over 260 terminals are now offering E15, with many large companies, like Magellan, offering it as their “house recipe”, eliminating the need for retailers to blend on site.

Our consumer initiative pilot – Get Biofuel – launched in April on Earth Day in Salt Lake City, Utah and Raleigh, North Carolina and our research findings were encouraging. Through the pilot, we saw success with engaging the consumer and leveraging that enthusiasm to increase store visits. Additionally, we partnered once again with GasBuddy to drive consumers to the pump for UNL88.

While this progress is good news, we are still working to overcome an unexpected hurdle from this summer – the court’s reversal of summertime sales of E15. Rest assured, Growth Energy’s team of experts is working to not only ensure the continuity of sales through September 15, but also on finding a permanent fix in time for the next summer season. If you’d like to make your voice hear on this issue, please write your legislator here, or contact me via email.

At the close of least year, we saw 10% growth in retail sites despite one of our nation’s most challenging years. With four months left in 2021, we’re on track to out-perform 2020 and keeping up the momentum in 2022.