The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association announced last week that two more gas stations in Iowa have begun selling E15 ethanol blend as a registered motor fuel. They are Kountry Korner, at Baxter in central Iowa, and Fast Stop at Cresco in northeast Iowa. The Baxter station and Cresco station are the third and fourth retailers offering E15 in the state. They join Linn Co-op Oil at Marion in eastern Iowa and Fredericksburg Co-op at Fredericksburg in northeast Iowa which began selling E15 last year.
The 15% blend is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use in vehicles model year 2001 and newer, which account for 85% of the fuel use in the United States. The traditional E10 blend, containing 10% ethanol, is widely available to motorists and can be used in all vehicles.
"Our company is dedicated to environmentally-friendly practices and growing our local economy, so offering E15 was an easy decision," says Kountry Korner owner Bryan DeJong. "The people of Baxter will really benefit from having cleaner-burning, lower-cost, American-made E15 available."
Group of local business leaders at Cresco built a fuel station to sell E15
As an owner of the Cresco station, Dave Sovereign, says "Consumers need more renewable fuel choices to support our communities and keep dollars in our local economies. Since flex-fuels were not available in Cresco, a group of local business leaders formed an LLC, purchased land and constructed a fueling station to remedy this situation. Also, with unblended 87 octane gasoline no longer being shipped through the pipeline this fall, ethanol blended fuels will dominate Iowa's fuel market and we want to be on the cutting edge with E15."
Fast Stop is located at 22268 Highway 9 West in Cresco. Kountry Korner is located in central Iowa at 312 E. Buchanan Street in Baxter.
Iowa retailers see value in offering lower cost, homegrown fuels
"E15 is starting to gain some traction in Iowa, and retailers are seeing value in offering fuel choice to consumers," says IRFA managing director Lucy Norton. "The IRFA expects more stations in the state to offer the fuel in the near future as more and more Iowans begin to realize the benefits of this cleaner, less-expensive, high octane fuel."~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
In order to offer E15, a retailer must register with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. IRFA assists retailers in the registration process to ensure they comply with all federal and state E15 regulations.
E15 continues to face challenges; it's not widely available and the oil industry doesn't want to give up market share to more ethanol
According to the national Renewable Fuels Association there are only a dozen or so stations across the entire country now offering E15. Ethanol groups first began pushing for E15 several years ago when realizing that ethanol use for the E10 blend would plateau without further adoption of higher blends. RFA president Bob Dinneen says while the ethanol industry wants E15 to expand beyond 12 stations, E15 is attracting unwarranted attention regarding quality issues that are false.
"The petroleum industry is throwing up all kinds of roadblocks to try to prohibit the expansion of this higher blend renewable fuel," says Dinneen. "The petroleum industry is all about protecting their market share for oil." He notes the influence of Big Oil on the witness list at a recent congressional hearing on E15. Dinneen points out that "E15 has already been extensively tested and proven safe and reliable to use. It is approved for use in vehicles that are model year 2001 and newer."
More than 95% of the gasoline sold in the U.S. today is the E10 blend, containing 10% ethanol, which means ethanol has run up against a blend wall at the E10 level. "The gasoline motor fuel market is basically saturated with ethanol as we are using the 10% blend," says Dinneen. "We need to move to E15."
E15 challenges continue, as Congressional hearing questions the downstream impacts of E15 on engines
The American Automobile Association released results of a survey last fall which found that only 12 million out of the 240 million light-duty vehicles on the road today have manufacturer's approval to use E15. Five manufacturers said their warranties would not cover fuel-regulated claims caused by E15 and eight additional manufacturers stated E15 doesn't comply with fuel requirements in owners manuals and may void warranty coverage.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
AAA president Robert Darbel testified at the recent hearing of the U.S. House science subcommittee on the environment that "supporters of E15 rightly note that the Department of Energy and EPA rigorously tested the fuel for exhaust emissions and components. This is consistent with EPA's mission. It was, however, neither the rigor nor the duration of this testing that fell short. It was the scope of impact that these tests were designed to capture. After reviewing this research, along with other studies that have been conducted, AAA's automotive experts have concerns about reduced engine life and fuel pump failure from E15 use -- factors that DOE testing was not structured to measure."
Ethanol industry says E15 has already been thoroughly tested and provides a fuel choice for consumers
In his opening statement before the congressional subcommittee, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, subcommittee vice chairman, said, "EPA has led a haphazard transition to E15 usage marked by regulatory confusion, bungled implementation and a lack of consumer education." As part of the hearing, witnesses who did not represent the ethanol industry discussed a bill that would require EPA to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to assess the state of the science regarding E15, including research needs, gaps in understanding, recent testing and consumer education efforts."
Dinneen doesn't think such steps are necessary. He points out that the EPA already requires a label on pumps which sell E15 at gas stations. That label says to motorists -- "Attention: E15, up to 15% ethanol. Use only in 2001 and newer passenger vehicles and flex-fuel vehicles. Don't use in other vehicles, boats or gasoline-powered equipment. It may cause damage and is prohibited by federal law."
Iowa is the leader in renewable fuels production. Iowa has 41 ethanol refineries capable of producing over 3.7 billion gallons annually, with one wet mill and two cellulosic ethanol facilities currently under construction. In addition, Iowa has 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce 315 million gallons annually. The IRFA was formed in 2002 to represent the state's liquid renewable fuels industry. The trade group fosters the development and growth of the renewable fuels industry in Iowa through education, promotion, legislation and infrastructure development. For more information, visit the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association website.