Green Car Journal logo

The Importance of Ethanol Fuel

by Robert WhiteNovember 19, 2012
E15 ethanol remains the most tested fuel ever approved by EPA and is perfectly safe and effective for approved engines.

The development and growth of the U.S. ethanol industry over the course of several decades has had concrete impacts on every day Americans. It is helping more than 400,000 of our friends and neighbors find work or keep the jobs they have. It is putting money back into consumers’ pockets by lowering gas prices by a national average of more than $1.00 and reducing the average American’s household gasoline bill by $1,200. Ethanol is now ten percent of America’s fuel supply and 25 percent of all the motor fuel produced from domestic resources, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and increasing our national security.

America consumes approximately 135-140 billion gallons of gasoline a year. More than 95 percent of those gallons were blended with ethanol, predominantly E10 (10 percent ethanol, 90 percent gasoline). America’s new fuel, E15 (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline), a cheaper and higher octane fuel than E10, is begin­ning to gain momentum in the marketplace.

Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska now have E15 being sold to model year 2001 and newer vehicles at a total of nine stations. E15 is approved for more than 65 percent of all vehicles on the road today, which consume about 80 percent of all unleaded fuel sold. Thus far, E15 sales have been nearly 20 percent of all sales at each sta­tion offering it today, quickly outpacing traditional premium volumes.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is working in various states to remove the state level hurdles restricting the sale of E15. There are many fuel retailers and marketers nationwide who have been misinformed on costs, liability, and consumer demand revolving around E15. The RFA continues to correct this information by educating on why they should consider offering E15 and what the benefits are.

This includes the development of an E15 business case that will show impact to the bottom line for retailers considering adding this new product. Through a joint effort of the RFA and the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), the Blend Your Own (BYO) Ethanol Campaign is also offering to educate retailers and marketers on E15, MLEBs, E85, and blender pumps through station visits and free online webinars.

The RFA is working diligently with the petroleum industry, gas retailers, automakers, and consumers to ensure E15 is used properly. RFA developed a model Misfueling Mitigation Plan (MMP) as required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for education and outreach on E15 and focused on the prevention of illegal use of E15 by consumers. This is the only EPA approved MMP and was deemed as sufficient on March 15, 2012. E15 Stakeholders can choose to adopt RFA’s model plan by notifying EPA of their intentions utilizing the RFA’s E15 retail and consumer resources.

Additionally, RFA has developed the E15 Retailer Handbook for evaluating existing infrastructure com­patibility, safety and conversion practices, and state specific regulatory requirements. Specifically, the handbook offers guidance regarding: Federal regulatory requirements including blender registration, octane posting, proper pump labeling, compliance with an EPA approved fuel survey and OSHA regulations; state and local fuel and safety regulations; E15 conversion guidelines for fueling infrastructure; retail conversion procedures; E15 fuel specification and properties; transportation and storage requirements; and safety and firefighting procedures.

E15 remains the most tested fuel ever approved by EPA and is perfectly safe and effective for approved engines. Adding this fuel option to the marketplace allows consumers to make the decision of which fuel works best for them and their vehicle. Allowing for additional ethanol-blended fuel use will help to lower gas prices, create domestic jobs, reduce oil dependence, and accelerate the commercialization of new bio­fuel technologies.

Robert White is Director of Market Development at the Renewable Fuels Association,