E85 on the Rise

ND E85 sales top 1 million gallons for first time; other states also show strong growth
By Kris Bevill | January 11, 2012

Sales of E85 throughout 2011 in several Midwestern states easily exceeded their previous year’s totals, according to data from the American Lung Association and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. The increased demand can be attributed to growing consumer awareness of the fuel and consumers’ desire to burn cleaner, domestically produced fuel, the groups say.

In Iowa, the nation’s top ethanol-producing state, E85 sales in 2011 had already topped the entire previous year by the end of September. Nearly 9.8 million gallons of E85 were sold between January and September, compared to a total of 9.3 million gallons in 2010. “It’s exciting to see Iowans increasing their commitment to mid-and high-level ethanol blends,” IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw says. “E85 keeps money here at home and reduces our dependence on foreign oil. Ethanol blends from E15 to E85 are the future for Iowa and America.”

Consumers north of Iowa’s border are also consuming more E85. The American Lung Association says Minnesota E85 sales were up 26 percent for the first eight months of 2011 compared to the same time period in 2010. Between January and August, the state’s retailers sold a whopping 14.2 million gallons of E85, compared to about 11.3 million gallons sold during the same months in 2010.

The state also made headway in increasing the amount of renewable fuels used in state vehicles. From January to September 2010, state agencies used about 724,800 gallons of E85. During the same months in 2011, that number was up by about 12,000 gallons. The Minnesota SmartFleet Committee says E85 now accounts for approximately 19 percent of its light-duty fuel purchases, which is an improvement toward meeting the state directive of reducing gasoline use in state vehicles by 50 percent from the 2005 baseline by 2015.

North Dakota has also notably increased its use of E85 in the past year. The state’s retailers surpassed the 1 million gallon mark for the first time by the end of September, far exceeding the previous year’s total E85 sales of about 660,000 gallons. In 2009, only about 275,000 gallons of E85 were sold in the state. The sudden skyrocketing of E85 sales in North Dakota is at least partially due to a program launched in late 2009 that provides financial incentives to retailers who install blender pumps in the state. To date, there are about 71 E85 fueling stations in North Dakota, according to the ALA.  Minnesota is home to more E85 stations than any other state and has about 360 sites. Iowa has nearly 160 E85 locations, according to the IRFA.—Kris Bevill