OPINION: E15 receives green light for summer

By Robert White, vice president of industry relations, Renewable Fuels Association | May 04, 2022

President Biden visited Iowa on April 12 to deliver the message that E15 would be allowed this summer in conventional gasoline markets as a way of extending tight fuel supplies. This was news that many were waiting for, especially those fuel retailers already offering E15 or those interested in starting. On April 29, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made it official by issuing  an emergency waiver that extends the 1 psi RVP allowance for E10  to blends containing up to 15% ethanol.

E15 was approved for all 2001 and newer vehicles a decade ago after over 6 million miles of testing by EPA. Since its debut at retail in July 2012, more than 55 billion trouble-free miles have been driven by consumers using E15. The California Air Resources Board also just completed testing, again highlighting both the emissions benefits and durability of E15.

Why is E15 getting all the buzz? For starters, record fuel prices. E15 is averaging a strong discount to regular unleaded today, while offering a higher octane. Some markets are seeing E15 selling for 30–40 cents per-gallon less than E10, even outside of the Midwest. Then there is ethanol’s ability to reduce the carbon intensity of the fuel and lower overall greenhouse gas emissions. That is an important consideration for many consumers. The list of benefits goes on and on, but it is important to note that ethanol is also a domestic product helping us further enhance our energy security, a topic of strong importance since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. This means less imports of foreign oil. It also means jobs and more economic stimulation.

What does it take to offer E15? First off, I would strongly encourage everyone to review RFA’s E15 Retailer Handbook. It outlines all the requirements from EPA to offer the fuel legally and safely. Equipment is next, and you must ensure that your equipment is compatible. This is a must. From the tank to the fuel nozzle, every component must be compatible with E15. Despite what some may suggest—typically, those wanting E15 to not gain traction—demonstrating equipment compatibility  is a relatively straightforward process. Just work with your equipment supply and service companies to verify the status of your equipment. The Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) conducted a nationwide study asking equipment providers to respond to 10 different equipment readiness scenarios. For example, those that can use existing tanks, pipe and dispensers can in some cases offer E15 for under $1,200 on average per station. The first station to offer E15 in the country did so simply by changing labels and adjusting the blending meters.

From there, what are your supply options? Does your fuel supplier or terminal offer E15? Many of the first retailers offering E15 did not have that option and installed equipment to offer E85 and then utilized the fuel dispenser to dilute the E85 with E10 or ethanol-free to make E15 onsite. But in recent years, more than 300 different terminals spread across the country have started offering preblended E15. This option opened the door to many fuel retailers instantly, as many stations (especially those built or renovated in recent years) have setups that are already fully compatible with E15 or need just a few minor changes.

Rest assured, the Renewable Fuels Association is here to help. The E15 market is ripe, and with more than 9 out of 10 cars approved for E15, the opportunity is huge. There are many ways to position E15 in your fuel offerings, and we have seen it tried all different ways. Many have learned what works and what doesn’t work the hard way, and we can make it easy for you by sharing those lessons learned. Visit our E15 page to learn about the other requirements and for our contact information. Don’t forget, the USDA is about to open another round of funding for fuel retailers that would like to offer higher blends like E15 or E85. In fact, the pool of money will be more than $100 million, and we can help with that, too.

Have a great summer!