OPINION: E15: The time is now for a proven fuel

By Robert White, vice president of industry relations, Renewable Fuels Association | August 01, 2022

A little over ten years ago, E15 was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for 2001 and newer vehicles, along with all flex-fuel vehicles. A chief reason for this success was the Renewable Fuels Association’s hard work on the only approved Misfueling Mitigation Plan that would allow retailers to begin offering this new fuel. Approved as a gasoline blend, E15 needed to have an octane posting and the orange-and-black warning label alerting consumers of what engines are approved for the new fuel. RFA also worked with EPA on various hose configurations to minimize any chance of confusion at the pump or, ultimately, any misfueling.

In July 2012, E15 finally was on the pour at a retail station, in the college town of Lawrence, Kan., where RFA worked with a local fuel retailer to make it happen. The retailer already had E15-compatible equipment and simply required some label changes and an adjustment to the blending settings. At this point, no terminal offered E15, so the only option was to create E15 at retail by diluting E85 with E10. In just under an hour, the station was ready. The station owner made the adjustments, and I personally updated the labels on the fuel dispensers.

Jere White, my father, was the Executive Director of Kansas Corn at that time and was the first person in the country to fill his car—a yellow 2010 Chevy Camaro—with E15. Like many other state corn organizations, Kansas Corn had provided this station with funding to install E85 a couple of years before, which allowed the extremely easy and inexpensive debut. This first tank of E15 was the culmination of years of work, and it was great to share that experience with Dad.

Despite all the warnings from anti-ethanol groups and even attack letters from the American Automobile Association (AAA), E15 rolled out without any issue. In fact, with 10 years in the history books now, not one substantiated claim of engine damage—nor any warranty claim denials—have been seen. This shouldn’t be a surprise, though; EPA tested this fuel for over 6 million miles and since that time, consumers have logged more than 55 billion miles on E15. Just recently, the California Air Resources Board tested E15 and saw consistent results.

E15 works, and it works well. It saves drivers money and even lowers emissions from their vehicles. E15 also helps with growing concerns about energy security. It’s not only a domestic product, but also renewable.

Drivers seem to agree with all this, and consumer demand has helped grow E15 well beyond this one station in Kansas to more than 2,600 stations now operating in over 30 states. There are more E15 pumps opening daily, and retailers are now selling E15 under a number of different marketing names and octane levels. No matter what E15 is called, it carries the orange-and-black label so there is no confusion.

As always RFA stands ready to help retailers make the transition to E15, with a number of resources available and staff on hand to answer any questions. Soon, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to roll out another round of $100 million in matching funds via its Higher Blend Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP), so if you haven’t made the switch yet, reach out and see how we can help you save money and upgrade your facilities. RFA has a perfect success rate in helping retailers take advantage of this program. With gas prices still high and oil markets in flux, this is the right time to bring a lower-cost blend to market—and it’s best to move fast to take advantage of the price differential.