WASHINGTON -- Higher ethanol blends continue to hit usage and availability milestones.
U.S. drivers have traveled a total of 2 billion miles on E15, the 15% ethanol blend, according to Growth Energy. This is as the number of fueling sites offering E15 have tripled over the past year to surpass 1,000.
“This latest milestone cements the fact that drivers have embraced the tremendous benefits E15 offers and highlights just how rapidly consumer demand is growing,” said Emily Skor, CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based ethanol industry group. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved E15 for use in flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) and vehicle models 2001 and newer, which represents more than 87% of vehicles on the road, according to Growth Energy.
“E15 is experiencing incredible growth both in terms of retailers offering it at their convenience stores and consumers reaching for it at the pump,” said Skor, adding that legislators need to make it available yearround. After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the EPA had ended summer volatility restrictions that prevented E15’s sale in 38 states two weeks early to help ease fuel supply and price pressures.
Meanwhile, more than 4,000 fueling sites now offer E85, the 85% ethanol blend, according to E85prices.com, which is operated by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Washington, D.C.
The more than 22 million FFVs on the road today can use E85. Most gas stations offering the ethanol blend are in Minnesota, but the highest growth in number of locations has been in states such as California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, according to RFA.
“This expansion allows consumers with FFVs in many areas the opportunity to fuel with E85 for the first time,” said Robert White, vice president of industry relations for RFA. “We applaud retailers for increasing efforts to bring further consumer choice to the market and we look forward to more stations opening up in the future.”
The ethanol industry group cites the growing availability of E85 to its own market development efforts, the past Blend Your Own Ethanol Campaign, theU.S. Department of Agriculture’s Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) Program, and the Prime the Pump initiative, which provides grants for retailers to install fueling equipment that can dispense higher ethanol blends.
“Today’s news should also further show EPA that there is ample ethanol blending capability to accommodate higher Renewable Fuel Standard Renewable Volume Obligation requirements than what the agency has proposed,” said White, alluding to the agency’s lower proposed volume targets for 2018. He added that if one-half of FFVs currently on the road fueled up with E85, it would equate to 6 billion gallons of demand for the ethanol blend.
“You cannot ignore the growing demand from E15 and other blends,” he concluded. “EPA must acknowledge this reality in its final 2018 RFS rule.”