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Promoting E15 with Retailers

Getting E15 deployed in as many locations as quickly as possible is a critical task for the ethanol industry.
By Susanne Retka Schill | March 26, 2012

Getting E15 deployed in as many locations as quickly as possible is a critical task for the ethanol industry. We’re pretty much at the blend wall. With wholesale ethanol prices around $1 per gallon lower than wholesale gasoline, you can be assured that the maximum blending is occurring right now, yet the monthly ending stocks reported by the Energy Information Agency continue to set record highs. The high rate of blending was confirmed by the RFA newsletter that came in while I was writing this. Only 3 percent of the gasoline used in the U.S. is NOT blended with ethanol. A few days earlier, EIA reported another record high set in the weekly ethanol stocks report.

At Ethanol Producer Magazine, we regularly make updates to ethanol plant capacities for our spring and fall plant maps. The days of plants doubling capacity seem to be over, but those capacities keep ratcheting up, by 2 or 5 or 10 MMgy. There’s a bit of a Catch-22 here. When margins are razor thin, there’s pressure for producers to increase efficiency and lower their cost per gallon. Some of those improvements aim for greater energy efficiency, but many focus on debottlenecking—getting more gallons out of the same plant. More gallons add to the ethanol supply which in turns keeps downward pressure on the market, and margins tight.

Many have seen this coming, and have worked hard to get E15 approved for use in the market. But EPA approval and the required state-by-state regulatory approvals are only the beginning. Individual retailers, and ultimately consumers, need to learn about E15 as well.

Towards that goal, the Blend Your Own Ethanol campaign is offering a free webinar for retailers at 1 p.m. central time, Thursday, April 5. The notice for the webinar says it succinctly:

“E15 has been approved for all flex-fuel vehicles and 2001 and newer light duty cars, trucks and SUVs only. This accounts for more than 62 percent of the vehicles on the roads today, and more than 84 percent of the unleaded fuel sold each year. There are still obstacles that stand in the way of this fuel being found by consumers, and this webinar will address each of them. It will also cover misfueling mitigation, what retailers have to do to offer E15 to consumers, and the least expensive path to offering E15.

The webinar will also cover various incentives available. To register or to learn more, please visit www.BYOethanol.com.”

I’d encourage ethanol producers and others in the industry to encourage their neighborhood gas station owners to listen in to the webinar, even if they aren’t making a decision right away. Making an informed decision requires getting good information. Webinars usually offer a chance to ask questions, too.

Remember, it’s been suggested that if E15 were adopted in the Corn Belt, where support for ethanol is high, it would make a significant contribution towards pushing the blend wall back.