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Senior Contributor

More sellers of E15 seen in Iowa

When I was in Iowa last week, I was suprised to see a gas station selling E-15 Blend Gasoline. Below is an article on it in Iowa. Hopefully this is a new trend. Article is below:



More sellers of E15 seen in Iowa

Yet some retailers say refiners are barring access to the fuel


WASHINGTON — A top official with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said he was optimistic that many more stations would agree to carry fuel blended with 15 percent ethanol later this year.

That’s despite allegations that six Iowa gas stations are being forced to stop selling E15 because oil companies don’t want to supply them.

Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said that after the ranks of stations carrying E15 slowly grew to a half dozen, he was confident that other businesses within the state, including smaller chains with about 50 stations in their portfolios, would soon want to offer it to motorists.

“We’re having some very good conversations right now,” Shaw said in an interview without naming the companies. “I am optimistic that we can land one of those.”

Shaw said just how many companies would agree to sell the corn-based blend this fall is uncertain. He said that if smaller companies decide to carry E15, “then we’re looking at counting by the dozens” of stations by October, but if some of the midsized or large businesses embrace it, the total could be “in the hundreds.”

Shaw added that some of the bigger chains are evaluating E15 but so far have not signaled whether they are interested in carrying the fuel.

Most gasoline sold at fuel stations across the country contains 10 percent ethanol. While an estimated 30 U.S. retailers sold E15 in late May, adoption of the blend has been slow because of the time and cost it takes to comply with the new requirements needed to sell it.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association said earlier this month that some of the state’s E15 retailers sent a letter to the oil refiners supplying Iowa, asking them to provide the proper summertime gasoline blendstock for E15.

They said no oil refiner has allowed Iowa retailers access to the necessary fuel starting June 1, forcing them to stop selling E15 to 2001 and newer vehicles until mid-September. The fuel could still be offered to flex-fuel vehicles, which make up about 10 percent of the market.

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents 500 oil and natural gas companies, has aggressively opposed the fuel blend. The  group has released  studies showing the higher-ethanol blend could damage millions of vehicles and put drivers at risk. In addition, the API has warned that automakers could not honor warranties if consumers used E15.

The API and others have been pushing for Congress and the White House to roll back or end the Renewable Fuel Standard — an eight-year-old law that requires refiners to produce alternative fuels.

The oil group last week called on the Obama administration to use its waiver authority to lower the ethanol mandate. Legislation also has been introduced in Congress that would cap the ethanol blend at 10 percent.

“The ever-increasing ethanol mandate has become unsustainable, causing a looming crisis for gasoline consumers,” said Bob Greco, who directs API’s activities related to refining, pipeline, marketing and fuels issues. “We’re at the point where refiners are being pressured to put unsafe levels of ethanol in gasoline.”

A change to or repeal of the Renewable Fuel Standard could deal a severe blow to Iowa, the country’s largest ethanol and biodiesel producer. The state’s 41 ethanol plants produced 3.7 billion gallons during 2012, matching 2011 production.

Shaw said he was confident that if the mandate is able to withstand a change from Congress this year, the industry and its E15 blend would emerge in good shape. By next year, he said, additional evidence will be available to show the fuel does not damage automobiles and the industry will have expanded its market share.

“This is the year” for the Renewable Fuel Standard, Shaw said. “If we can hold the line this year, some toothpaste will come out of the tube that will be hard to put back in.”

If the oil industry is successful in altering the Renewable Fuel Standard, Shaw said, it would create uncertainty in the industry, effectively shutting off investment in the next generation of renewable fuels.



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