WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new “Consumer Choice Report Card” released by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) grades some of the largest, most well-known retail gasoline chains based on whether they are providing consumers with alternatives to regular gasoline that cost less, reduce pollution and are higher octane for better engine performance. The “Big Five” oil companies all scored at the bottom of the list — with fewer than 1 percent of stations offering American made, renewable alternatives like E85 or E15 — while a number of major independent retail chains received “A+” grades, with more than 25 percent of their stations offering E85 or E15.
“E85 and E15 are made with American renewable fuel that is better for your engine and your wallet, not to mention our environment and our economy, but not enough consumers have access to these alternatives,” said RFA President Bob Dinneen. “Unfortunately, the Big Oil companies are rigging the market to take away consumer choice and prevent many retailers from offering these clean, homegrown fuels.”
The Consumer Choice Report Card is part of a new report from the RFA titled “Protecting the Monopoly: How Big Oil Covertly Blocks the Sale of Renewable Fuels.” The report exposes how the “Big Five” oil companies, along with a number of leading refiners, are engaging in strong arm tactics and covert practices to prevent and discourage the sale of renewable fuels, especially at stations carrying their brand name.
• Distribution contracts routinely include provisions that make it difficult, needlessly expensive, or simply impossible for a retailer to offer consumers choices like E15 or E85. For example, contracts cited in the report include anti-consumer provisions preventing the sale of E85 under the gas station canopy, onerous labeling requirements, minimum sales volume requirements, exclusivity provisions and other language that create practical or financial roadblocks to the sale of renewable fuels — despite the benefit to consumers.
• Of the nearly 48,000 retail gas stations carrying a “Big Five” oil company brand, fewer than 300 (0.6 percent) offer E85 or E15. Independent stations are 4–6 times more likely to offer consumers E85 and 40 times more likely to offer E15.
• Most oil-branded retail gas station chains receive a grade of “F,” meaning that fewer than 1 percent of their branded stations offer E15 or E85. Among oil company affiliated brands, only Speedway/SuperAmerica and Cenex received high marks (“A-“ and “B,” respectively.) Several independent/unbranded chains — including Meijer, Thorntons, Kum & Go, Break Time and Kwik Trip — received grades of “A+,” meaning more than 25 percent of their stations offer E15 or E85.
The report concludes by noting that the only way to ensure that consumers get access to these lower cost, higher performance renewable fuels is for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enforce compliance with the bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard, which calls for increasing amounts of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and made available to consumers:
“Cynically, oil companies frequently cite a shortage of fueling infrastructure as a reason why the EPA should lower the requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard. Yet, as demonstrated in this analysis, the oil industry itself has deliberately created this shortage by making it as difficult and burdensome as possible for retail gas stations to offer greater volumes of renewable fuels. Like a child who breaks all of his pencils and then tells his parents he can’t do his homework, the oil industry should not be permitted to claim it is not possible to expand renewable fuels consumption when it is taking calculated steps to stifle the broad introduction of E85, E15 and other fuels.”