Planning ahead for the overnight success of E15

(An excerpt from “Retailers Won’t Sell E15 Without Liability Protection” published by Convenience Store News)       

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved the required health effects and emissions testing of ethanol/gasoline blend E15, a number of barriers still must be overcome before petroleum retailers will sell the fuel for vehicles made 2001 and later, Ethanol Producer Magazine reported….

“Retailers must obtain the appropriate storage tanks and dispensers to sell the product, and this can be a very expensive investment,” said Jeff Lenard, vice president of industry advocacy for NACS. “In order to justify such an investment, a certain level of consumer demand must exist. Given the opposition of the auto manufacturing industry to E15 and their concerns about the use of the fuel in current vehicles, it is very difficult to evaluate potential consumer demand.”

Lenard added that the organization is pursuing legislation to legally protect retailers who comply with an EPA-approved program in the event of a driver adding E15 to a non-approved vehicle.

Iowa may become the first state to permit E15 sales to 2001 and newer vehicles, due to E15’s existing presence in blender pumps for flex-fuel vehicles. The state also has a renewable fuel standard in place, and incentives are available to retailers who sell mid-level ethanol blends.

“We have been looking at state policies and have modified the necessary policies and requirements to be in a position to offer E15 fairly soon after it goes through the formal approval process and all of the registration and other requirements have been met,” said Lucy Norton, managing director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. “We have moved forward very quickly to put the pieces together here to enable retailers to put E15 in this market so consumers have additional fuel choices.”

Earlier this month, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association submitted a mitigation plan to the EPA that could serve as a model plan for retailers to follow to demonstrate regulatory compliance in the future, according to the report. However, CHS Inc., parent company to the Cenex brand of convenience stores, is just one fuel supplier that has refused to sell E15 until concerns about liability issues for vehicles and equipment, potential gasoline compatibility issues related to Reid Vapor Pressure levels, state and local fuel regulations are resolved.

Valero Energy Corp. also has no plans to offer E15 for sale. “Because E15 has not been approved for use in all engines and hasn’t received warranty protection from engine manufacturers, we can’t guarantee its performance and we won’t sell a product we can’t guarantee,” said Bill Day, executive director of media relations for Valero.

Our Take:
Big oil won’t sell higher blends of ethanol. The auto manufacturers won’t warrantee vehicles running on E15. Convenience stores want liability protection. Sounds like a recipe for status quo.

If America wants to end its oil addiction on its own terms (instead of waiting until $5 gas shuts down the economy), then the government needs to stop dithering, and the EPA needs to stop spinning its fantasy of an all-electric car future–and get busy with the solution that’s available now and is the most economical solution around.

If ethanol opponents thought 50 cents a gallon incentive for ethanol was a boondoggle (and look at Ethanol carrying on, despite the disappearance of that incentive) wait until they see how much of an incentive they’d have to give car owners to buy battery-electrics–$10,000 per. And then there’s building 50 new nuclear power plants or coal-fired power plants (what happens to carbon emissions then?) to keep up with the new electricity demand.

By comparison, the ethanol solution is economical and ready to go. Increasing ethanol production and adopting the technology (a hundred dollar part in a car’s fuel system), and the infrastructure (a blender pump in every station) and the legal framework (liability protection) will cost a lot less than the battery-powered electric scenario. And did we mention ten to 20 hours to recharge the car so it can go 50 or 100 miles?

Iowa is forging ahead and we applaud their leadership on the issue. Minnesota should pay close attention and help carry this ball into the end zone.

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