RFA Finds E15 Sales Grow but Still Restricted

Cindy Zimmerman

A new analysis from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) finds sales of E15 (15% ethanol fuel) surged over the past three months compared to the same period last year, but warns that growth is at risk unless the government takes action to allow sales of the blend again next summer.

RFA examined data from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which is the only monthly data set available that includes E15 volumes and prices, and found sales of E15 in the state were up 10 percent compared to the summer of 2022, hitting a monthly record in August as gasoline prices escalated.

The increase in sales was also facilitated by a combination of ethanol’s cost-competitiveness relative to petroleum-based gasoline blendstock, the incentive provided by credits used to demonstrate compliance with the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (referred to as Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs), and the continued expansion of the number of retail stations offering E15. E15 was priced at an average discount of $0.16/gallon in Minnesota this summer (Figure 2). Retailer interest in offering E15 has been motivated by positive consumer response as well as favorable economics, including equipment cost sharing available through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program administered by the USDA.

However, sales of E15 next summer are still in limbo because a 2021 D.C. Circuit Court ruling in favor of oil refiners overturned a 2019 rule allowing E15 to be sold year-round, and EPA has yet to implement regulations for a request by Midwest governors to opt out of the 1-pound vapor pressure waiver that is provided to E10 allowing year-round sales of E15.

Although the comment period on the proposal ended April 30, the agency inexplicably still has not issued a final rule. With the switch to summer 2024 gasoline specifications less than seven months away, EPA needs to publish the final rule approving the governors’ petition as soon as possible, so that supply chain participants can plan and coordinate adequately.

Still, the optimal solution for supply chain participants, consumers, and the environment is for Congress to enact legislation allowing permanent year-round sales of E15 nationwide. Nearly a year ago, a broad coalition of energy and agriculture organizations called on Congress to adopt such legislation. The restriction on E15 is an anachronism from a time when the usage of renewable fuels was not commonplace, and action is needed to ensure uninterrupted sales of this less-expensive, cleaner, lower-carbon fuel.

E15, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Renewable Fuels Association, RFA