The ethanol industry has come a long way over the past four decades. Discover why ethanol is important to the nation’s economy and security and how it is helping consumers.
RFA to EPA: REGS Proposal Should Be Retooled to Truly Address Barriers Impeding Renewable Fuels Expansion
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests its recent Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support (REGS) proposed rule will promote renewable fuels and remove barriers to their production, distribution and consumption. However, the proposal does not adequately address key regulatory barriers that are constraining growth in ethanol production and use, according to comments filed today by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). In order to truly promote expansion in renewable fuels production and use, RFA’s comments encourage EPA to take immediate action to eliminate a number of significant regulatory impediments.
“While well-intentioned, the REGS rule does not adequately address the key regulatory barriers that are significantly limiting growth in renewable fuel production and use,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen in the comments. “In fact, we are concerned some elements of the REGS proposal may actually serve to add complexity and create new barriers to renewable fuel market expansion, an effect that would be the opposite of the rule’s stated purpose. While the proposal does resolve the ambiguity surrounding regulation of certain ethanol blends like E16-E50, it largely overlooks the actions required to truly support and promote an expanded role for renewable fuels in the marketplace.”
Rather than proceeding with the current rulemaking, EPA should “initiate a far more comprehensive process to reform existing fuel regulations in a way that levels the playing field for renewable fuels and genuinely removes regulatory barriers to growth,” Dinneen continued.
Among actions EPA should take to reform existing fuel regulations, RFA recommends:
- Establishing regulatory parity in the volatility limits for all fuel blends containing more than 9 percent ethanol by volume;
- Streamlining and harmonizing survey programs intended to monitor and verify fuel quality and regulatory compliance;
- Simplifying the petition process for new certification fuels and eliminating unreasonable criteria for approval;
- Eliminating unnecessarily burdensome and costly requirements related to the fuel and fuel additive registration process;
- Leveling the playing field for all alternative fuel vehicles, including flexible fuel vehicles (FFV), under the fuel economy and light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas program;
- Rejecting the results of the a flawed fuel effects study and suspending further use or development of the MOVES2014 emissions model until a new emissions study based on appropriate test fuels is conducted; and
- Updating the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis of corn ethanol conducted for RFS2.
“Implementing these recommendations would go a long way toward truly enabling future growth of the renewable fuels industry,” said Dinneen. “We urge EPA to go back to the drawing board with this proposal and draft new amendments that genuinely stimulate renewable fuels growth, ensuring consumers have greater access to ethanol, the lowest-cost, cleanest-octane transportation fuel on the planet.”
In addition to these recommendations, the RFA comments offer detailed input on specific provisions of the REGS package, such as the proposals classifying E16-E83 as “ethanol flex fuels” and establishing provisions for “biointermediates.”
A full copy of RFA’s comments is here.
This article originally appeared in SIGMA’s January/February 2017 Independent Gasoline Marketing Magazine. EMV, which stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa, is the global standard for credit cards equipped with computer chips, and the technology used to authenticate the transactions. In order to avoid liability of fraudulent transactions, all fuel retailers must upgrade their dispensers to accept EMV by October 2020.
Many retailers face infrastructure costs that are simply out of reach. Financing is not as easy as it used to be, and upcoming challenges like EMV can be too much for small and medium retailers. For those in this situation, a strange friend can provide financial assistance to help offset costs. Ethanol has become a standard part of our nation’s fuel supply due to the phase out of MTBE and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Sure, ethanol-free gasoline is out there, but for the most part, varying blends of ethanol occupy nearly every gallon of gasoline sold from E10 to E85.
In July 2012, E15 became available to consumers, first appearing in Kansas, and has since spread into 30 states. E15 is approved for 2001 and newer light duty cars, trucks, and SUVs, along with all flex fuel vehicles (FFVs). This vehicle segment is more than 80% of all vehicles on the roads today, and consumes more than 90% of all unleaded fuel. When E15 first debuted, you heard from ethanol opponents about how bad this fuel would be, the misfueling concern for retailers, and the damage that would come from its presence in the marketplace. Well, four and a half years later, there has not been one reported case of misfueling or engine damage. Millions upon millions of gallons of E15 have been sold, and all at a discount to E10. In fact, E15 is averaging a 2% discount to E10 today.
The cost of getting into E15 was also grossly misstated by ethanol opponents. The first station in Kansas had to change labels, and I provided those to the retailer at no cost. That said, we know that every station is different and will likely require different upgrades. Some stations may need new dispensers, while others might need a new tank or to replace some underground piping. But it is simply careless to state that all stations will need expensive upgrades. Underground fiberglass piping and fittings installed in service stations have been compatible with up to 100 percent ethanol for more than 40 years. Double wall underground storage tanks built in 1990 or later are fully comparable for ethanol levels up 100%.
The cost for retailers is unknown until an equipment site survey is conducted. Can you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars installing E15? Sure. Do you need to do so? Not likely. Find out for yourself. Don’t just trust a blanket statement from someone that doesn’t want you to make the move anyway.
However, E85 is a different animal. The fuel blend, which debuted in 1996, is restricted to FFVs. These vehicles can use any blend of ethanol from 0% to 85% and there are more than 21 million of these vehicles on the roads today. E85 requires different infrastructure than E10, or even E15. Most tanks are compatible, but the majority of dispensers will either require a conversion kit or new equipment. All dispenser manufacturers offer E85 capable equipment, along with all other manufacturers that produce various other fuel system components. Because E85 it is an alternative fuel, it is protected under the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act (PMPA) and existing branding contracts cannot prohibit you from offering E85.
Let’s get back to the money and how ethanol can help you! Many Midwest states have provided incentives to drive ethanol production and consumption with retailer incentives. Some states have grant programs, while others have tax credits. There are even initiatives from ethanol supporters like state corn grower organizations that help provide retailers with funding to help offset costs of installing infrastructure to support higher blends of ethanol. The State of Iowa, for example, offers a grant that will cover more than 70% of the costs of equipment and installation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has provided limited funding opportunities for fuel retailers in the past, but that was restricted to very small businesses in rural areas through the Rural Energy for American Program (REAP). The announcement of USDA’s Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) Program changed that history. USDA offered $100 million for infrastructure to offer higher blends of ethanol like E15 and E85. This money was matched with an additional $110 million from states, fuel retailers, ethanol proponents, and the ethanol industry to make the program $210 million strong. Funding was distributed to 23 different states to manage with the goal of installing nearly 5,000 new dispensers at approximately 1,500 stations. This program will continue through 2017.
The ethanol industry also has an infrastructure initiative called Prime the Pump. This effort has awarded numerous chains with funding to help them with costs to introduce E15 and E85. Several awards have been given out to notable chains across the country.
The cost of getting into higher blends of ethanol continues to evolve. If you missed the announcement in August, Wayne Fueling Systems has stopped producing its Ovation dispenser as E10-only, and now only offers those dispensers as E25 and E85 capable. Its Helix model will follow suit sometime in early 2017. If you have ordered a Wayne Ovation dispenser since late June, your dispenser can sell blends up to E25 (the rest of your fuel system should be evaluated before such a switch).
EMV compliance can be expensive, but ethanol can help you out. Not only can it help offset the costs you already will be required to spend, but it also can help differentiate yourself from the competition. Since annual surveys show that more than 70% of consumers base their fuel purchasing decision on cost alone, wouldn’t having a higher ethanol blend like E15 make sense? It is higher octane at a lower price, and approved for more than 80% of the vehicles on the roads today. If E15 or E85 were a problem, do you think several major chains would have made the leap?
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) represents the U.S. ethanol producers, and has been doing so since 1981. We do not have anything to sell, but we do have lots of information to give away. We can help you track down the money, fill out the applications, do site equipment surveys, and even help pick out the right conversion kits or equipment. If you are interested in learning more about available funding and equipment options, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at email@example.com or our Director of Market Development, Cassie Mullen, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON — More than 21 million automobiles on U.S. roadways today are flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs), which can run on fuel blends containing up to 85 percent ethanol (E85). Is your vehicle one of them? Finding out is easy, thanks to a new brochure released today by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The brochure compiles all of the FFV models available in the current model year (MY2017), as well as previous model years going back as far as MY1999. The RFA brochure lists only those FFV models that are available for purchase by both individual consumers and fleet managers, a key difference from other lists that do not distinguish what models are actually available to consumers.
For MY2017, General Motors leads the pack with 17 FFV model offerings, followed by Ford/Lincoln/Mercury with 12 FFV models available and Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep with nine. Toyota offers two FFV models for MY2017, while Audi and Mercedes-Benz each offer three MY2017 FFVs. All the data used in the brochure was collected directly from the automakers.
“There are more than 3,600 retail stations across the country offering higher ethanol blends. This brochure can help consumers who want to take advantage of higher level ethanol blends in their vehicles, and for retailers to educate their customers about the capabilities of their vehicles,” said RFA Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White. “Ethanol is the cleanest, most affordable, highest octane fuel source on the planet today. Now consumers don’t have to wonder if they can use higher-octane flexible fuels like E20, E30 or E85; they have an easy-to-use guide that makes it clear.”
In addition, every vehicle on the road today is approved to use at least 10 percent ethanol blends (E10), and those built since 2001 are legally approved to use 15 percent blends (E15).
To view a copy of the FFV brochure, click here.
For more information on pricing and availability of E85, other flex fuels, and E15, visit www.E85prices.com.
WASHINGTON — Recent data from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) shows that gasoline consumed in 25 states and the District of Columbia contained more than 10.0 percent ethanol on average in 2015, demonstrating that the so-called “E10 Blend Wall” continues to crumble. The national average ethanol blend rate was 9.91 percent according to the DOE data. According to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the data completely undermine legislation proposed by Reps. Bill Flores (R-Texas) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) that suggests the gasoline market cannot withstand more than 9.7 percent ethanol content.
The data show that ethanol comprised 12.5 percent of the gasoline pool in Minnesota in 2015. Not coincidentally, ethanol flex fuels like E85 are available at roughly one out of every eight stations in the Gopher State. In Iowa, gasoline contained an average of 11.5 percent ethanol in 2015, up from 10.3 percent in 2014 and just 9.5 percent in 2013. The 2015 data is the latest available and was just published by DOE’s Energy Information Administration.
Ethanol also exceeded 10.0 percent of gasoline consumption in 2015 in coastal states like California, Oregon, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and even Louisiana. For the first time ever, not a single state had average ethanol content below 9.0 percent in 2015, the data show. Vermont ranked last in average ethanol concentration at 9.18 percent.
In 2014, the national average ethanol content was 9.83 percent and 22 states (plus the District of Columbia) were above 10.0 percent on average.
RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said the DOE data underscore that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is working as intended to drive increased use of ethanol and other biofuels. “As E15 and ethanol flex fuels like E85 have gained in popularity in recent years, the so-called blend wall has been reduced to a pile of rubble,” Dinneen said. “This data clearly shows that the RFS is delivering on its promise to expand consumer access to lower-cost, cleaner fuel options at the pump. And with EPA putting the RFS back on track in 2017, the share of renewables in our nation’s motor fuel will only continue to grow.”
WASHINGTON — At a public hearing today in Chicago, Geoff Cooper, senior vice president at the Renewable Fuels Association, testified before the Environmental Protection Agency to provide recommendations for the agency’s proposed Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support (REGS) rule. Cooper’s testimony focused primarily on strengthening ethanol flex-fuel (EFF) provisions, telling EPA officials that the recommendations are intended to boost flexibility and allow “EFF producers, distributors, and consumers to capitalize on economic efficiencies in the marketplace.”
Cooper noted that the RFA supports increasing the sulfur limit for certified natural gasoline to 30 ppm. “Along with EPA’s proposal to limit natural gasoline content to 32% of the finished EFF blend, this would ensure the finished fuel does not exceed 10 ppm sulfur,” he stated.
Cooper also stressed the RFA’s opposition to EPA’s plan to establish a quality survey program (stemming from the industry’s negative experience with the E15 fuel survey) that would collect and analyze EFF samples as the costs for implementing such a program would outbalance the benefits.
“As the E15 survey has demonstrated, the costs of such programs often outweigh the benefits and the program scope can quickly expand beyond its intended purpose,” he said. “As an alternative to physical sampling, EPA’s proposal discusses a survey arrangement in which the independent surveyor reviews PTDs to ensure that EFF bulk blender-refiners and blender pump-refiners used appropriate parent blendstocks to make EFF. This alternative is certainly preferable to physical sampling, and we agree with EPA that it would greatly reduce the cost of compliance assurance.”
The Renewable Fuels Association agrees with EPA that it is unreasonable to subject E15 retailers to the registration, reporting and batch testing requirements that apply to gasoline producers, Cooper testified. He noted the importance of the proposal in highlighting the different volatility treatment between E10 and E15, and pushed the EPA to take action to resolve the issue.
“RFA first encouraged EPA to level the playing field for the RVP of E10 and E15 in 2010, when we formally requested that EPA use its administrative authority to simply apply the 1.0 psi RVP waiver for E10 to E15 as well … We understand the REGS rulemaking process is not intended to address RVP standards for E15, but it does accentuate the importance of resolving this barrier. We again strongly encourage EPA to take immediate action separately to either limit the RVP of conventional gasoline to 8.0 psi in the summertime, or extend the 1.0 psi waiver to E15.”
View Cooper’s testimony as prepared for delivery here.
WASHINGTON — An Iowa retailer is holding an ethanol pump promotion on Nov. 11–12 to celebrate the opening of new blender pumps.
Holstein Travel Center has installed four blender pumps with eight hoses at its location on Indorf Avenue in Holstein, Iowa. Quad County Corn Processors, an RFA-member company that operates a 37 million gallon per year ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa, will supply the station with the ethanol. The retailer also received a $50,000 grant from Iowa’s Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Program to help defray the cost of the blender pumps.
For the grand opening, there will be multiple specials and gift card drawings. On Nov. 11, E85 will be 85 cents per gallon between 3–5 p.m. CT and the same price the following day between 11 a.m.–1 p.m. CT. E15 will also be specially priced at $1.15 per gallon and E30 will be $1 per gallon those same times and days.
“We are looking forward to celebrating our grand opening and providing consumers more choices at the pump,” said Chris Brown, director of operations for the Holstein Travel Center. “Our partnership with Quad County Corn Processors will help bolster our local economy and shows a commitment to Iowa’s renewable fuels. I am glad to join that growing list of Iowa retailers who are making this commitment.”
Delayne Johnson, CEO of Quad County Corn Processors, said he is pleased to see further expansion of ethanol blender pumps in Iowa and around the nation. “Blender pumps allow retailers to provide more of what consumers want — choice. We are proud to collaborate with Holstein Travel Center to provide cleaner burning ethanol and congratulate them on their grand opening.”
“We thank Holstein Travel Center for installing ethanol blender pumps at its station,” said Robert White, RFA vice president of industry relations. “Ethanol is the lowest cost, highest octane source on the planet and we are glad consumers have stations like this that gives them greater access to more fuels. We look forward to more stations offering higher ethanol blends in the near future.”
WASHINGTON — Searching for stations offering 15 percent ethanol blends — and prices — just got a lot easier. The website E85prices.com, managed by the Renewable Fuels Association, now includes E15 in its services.
The website, a crowdsourced service, now allows consumers to toggle between E15 and E85, locating information and reporting prices on either fuel blend. The improvements also allow consumers to review E15 prices reported by others, price spreads for each state, historical statistics and more, giving them access to the lowest price gasoline available. In 2012, EPA gave final approval to E15 for 2001 and later model year vehicles, which accounts for 80 percent of today’s automotive fleet.
“We are pleased to be able to broaden the website’s information to include information on E15,” said Robert White, vice president of industry relations at RFA. “There are now hundreds of stations throughout most of the U.S. that offer E15, and that number will grow into the thousands next year. We want to make sure consumers know and can track that information, so they can take advantage of higher ethanol blends and the savings associated with using alternative fuels.”
The website also maintains a database of blender pump locations and an online forum.
WASHINGTON — Convenience store and fuel retailer Family Express is receiving more than $789,000 through an Indiana blender pump program to bring online 45 dispensers at 37 stations in the state, it was announced Monday.
The Hoosier Homegrown Fuels Blender Pump Program, jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency and the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, provided the funding for the pumps.
Family Express is planning to offer 45 blender pumps, capable of offering higher ethanol such as E15, in Jasper, Lake, Laporte, Porter, St. Joseph, Starke, Tippecanoe and White counties. Thirty-four of the stations already offer E85 and will be adding E15. Meanwhile, three stations will be brand new and also offer E15 and E85.
Additionally, 15 of the stations are in EPA-designated ozone non-attainment areas and will be able to offer E15 year-round.
“We are glad to be able to help Family Express offer more ethanol blender pumps through the Hoosier Homegrown Fuels Blender Pump Program,” said Ken Parrent, ethanol director for the Indiana Corn Marketing Council. “Indiana currently has more than 185 dedicated ethanol refueling stations for blends above 10 percent and thanks to this program, there will soon be more.”
“We are pleased that Family Express has been able to take advantage of the Hoosier Homegrown Fuels Blender Pump Program and grow its offerings of higher ethanol blends,” said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “More blender pumps mean greater consumer access for ethanol blends, bringing about higher octane fuels and lower gasoline prices. We look forward to more stations offering fuels such as E15 in the near future.”
What You Need to Know about the Federal Trade Commission’s Final Rule Regarding Labeling of Ethanol Blends Beyond 10%
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a final rule on how ethanol blends above 10% must be labeled at retail fuel stations. The final rule, which was published on Jan. 14, will go into effect July 14. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has been heavily engaged with the FTC since mid-level and higher-level blends made their presence on the fuels landscape.
Among other things, the final rule requires the FTC to: 1) establish specific rating and certification requirements for ethanol blends above 10% to a maximum of 83%; and 2) modify ethanol fuel labeling to permit a single pump label for high-level ethanol blends.
Although the FTC originally proposed defining “ethanol blends” as “a mixture of gasoline and ethanol containing more than 10% ethanol,” the final rule abandons the term and replaces it with “ethanol flex fuels.” The latter term, which RFA vigorously supported, helps match the language within ASTM and NCWM. RFA had argued that E15 should be exempt from the labeling requirements because it is already subject to EPA’s labeling requirements. The FTC agreed, and in the final rule exempts E15.
The final rule adopts tiered labeling for Ethanol Flex Fuels with options to provide fewer burdens to retailers. Specifically, retailers must post labels for mid-level blends with exact ethanol concentrations or may round to the nearest multiple of 10 (e.g., “40% ethanol” could have ethanol content of 35% – 44% by volume). For high-level blends (E51 – E83), retailers may post the exact percentage of ethanol concentration, round to the nearest multiple of 10, or indicate that the fuel contains “51% to 83% ethanol.”
Regrettably the final rule adopted the “Use Only in Flex-Fuel Vehicles / May Harm Other Engines” language that had been proposed by the FTC. RFA has strongly opposed this language and, in its comments to the FTC, stated it was “not aware of any credible evidence showing that misfueling has been a problem at flex fuel dispensers that simply advise the consumer” and, “the proposed language…does not appear to be based on scientific evidence and would undoubtedly deter some [flex-fuel vehicle] drivers from purchasing the fuel.”
Certification with PTDs will still suffice, as well as a letter or other written statement. This must include the date, your name, the other person’s name, and the automotive fuel rating (ethanol content). In the case of ethanol flex fuels, you must possess a reasonable basis, consisting of competent and reliable evidence regarding the percentage of ethanol contained in the fuel for the automotive fuel rating.