LINCOLN, Neb. — Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lifted regulations against the sale of E15 throughout the summer months, the market and industry feedback has proven positive. For the first time ever, consumers driving 2001 or newer vehicles can access the fuel with up to 15% ethanol year-round. Because customers see a decrease in price, an average of 3-7 cents cheaper per gallon than E10, fuel retailers making room for E15 experience an increase in patrons.
“In 2017, our sales of E15 increased over 300 percent; in 2018, they went up another 225 percent,” said Randy Gard, COO of Grand Island-based Bosselman Enterprises. “And with the help of President Trump opening the door for year-round E15, our newest projections for this year show an increase of another 400 percent.”
Bosselman Enterprises operates 45 Pump & Pantry convenience stores in the state, and they have been offering E15 since 2016. Gard said sales growth has been tremendous and it is a huge market opportunity. He encourages other retailers to join the E15 movement to offer a better fuel, at a better cost, that’s better for the environment.
The biggest hurdle that often stops fuel retailers from adding higher ethanol blends is cost, but Roger Berry, administrator for the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB), said that might not actually be a hurdle at all. To help dispel these myths and to educate fuel retailers on the benefits and ease of offering E15, NEB will host a free workshop for fuel retailers Aug. 28 in Kearney, Nebraska. Attendees will hear best practices from fuel retailers who’ve seen success selling E15, a keynote from Ron Lamberty of American Coalition of Ethanol, and will learn about resources to make implementing and labeling infrastructure easy and affordable.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about the costs associated with adding E15 to the pump,” Berry said. “Many gas stations can begin to sell E15 with very little investment in their current infrastructure. If a pre-blended E15 is available at the rack where the fuel retailer sources their fuel, they can often times replace one of their current choices, such as an 89 octane mid-grade that they generally sell very little of, with very little to no investment. Of course they must have the Nebraska State Fire Marshall’s office out for an inspection prior to putting E15 in that tank and dispensing it through the dispenser. The retailer does not have to install the more expensive blender pumps in order to sell E15.”
Additionally, some of the burden can be relieved through a grant program from the Nebraska Corn Board, who will award qualifying retailers money for equipment and infrastructure to offer higher blends of ethanol fuel.
To sign up, fuel retailers should register by Aug. 23 at http://bit.ly/E15WKSHPKearney. The workshop is free, and food and drink will be provided throughout the day.
The increase in E15 sales will provide an additional value-added market for Nebraska farmers and ethanol plants, who are experiencing many challenges this year. Weather, the strain of tariffs that have cut U.S. exports drastically, and the EPA’s indiscriminate approval of small refinery exemptions (SREs) are weighing heavily on the industry. Fuel retailers who offer E15 will not only be driving customers seeking lower costs and environmental change to their stores, they will have a real impact on Nebraska’s farmers and economy.