Consumers will have the choice to purchase E15 at the pump again tomorrow, September 16, 2016. For drivers owning a 2001 or newer vehicle, E15 sales are restricted during summer months due to an arcane U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation on Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP). The 15th marks the end of EPA’s “volatility control season” opening the fuel back up to non-flex fuel vehicles.
From June 1 through Sept. 15 only consumers with flex fuel vehicles can fill up with E15. However, RFA is working to allow consumers with vehicles 2001 or newer to choose E15 at the pump year round.
When the EPA approved the sale of E15 in 2011, it did not allow E15 to benefit from the 1-pound per square inch (psi) waiver that is offered for E10 blends. Due to this lack of RVP waiver, retailers can only sell E15 to flex fuel vehicles from June 1-September 15th. The other option is for a retailer to purchase specialty gasoline blendstocks, one that is not typically available in conventional gas markets and uneconomical to ship.
“In 1989, EPA provided an RVP waiver to 10 percent ethanol blends, concluding there would be no air quality consequence and retailers would otherwise be unable to secure blendstocks for ethanol blending year-round,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “Those same circumstances exist for E15. Indeed, as data submitted by RFA to EPA has shown, emissions from E15 are even lower than E10 and consumers would benefit all year long from a fuel that is higher octane, lower cost and cleaner.”
According to RFA, who sent a letter to the EPA on this issue in December of 2015, the EPA has claimed it does not have the authority to extend the 1 psi RVP waiver to E15. However, RFA disagrees and has offered another option: for the EPA to simply require lower-RVP summertime conventional gas blendstocks for mixing with all ethanol blends.
“We just want RVP parity for E15 and E10, so the marketplace and consumers have the freedom to choose the fuel that works best for them,” Dinneen continued. “EPA’s continued inaction on the summertime volatility restrictions is stifling the growth of higher ethanol blends and incorrectly using that as justification to propose lower 2017 renewable fuel standard targets. We reiterate the need for EPA to address this issue.”
Listen to an interview with Dinneen on E15 here: Interview with Bob Dinneen, RFA on E15
This week, a group of seven governors sent a letter to the EPA calling on the agency to end its unfair RVP treatment of E15. RFA notes that there are over 300 stations in 24 states that offer E15 for sale, including retailers such as Sheetz, Kum & Go, Murphy USA and Protec Fuel. Further market penetration for ethanol blends will be achieved when HWRT Oil Company begins offering pre-blended E15 on Friday, September 16, 2016 at the terminal level in three states, giving retailers further access to the fuel blend. At the same time, Diesel Dogs, a fuel distributor in Minnesota, will also begin offering E15 to retailers. In addition, with the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership program, approximately 1,500 new stations will be offering E15 in the coming months.