By Tim Rudnicki, Esq
Yes, the Renewable Fuel Standard and Minnesota’s Petroleum Replacement Statute both call for increasing use of biofuels such as ethanol. And, most importantly, consumers, based on our survey work, seek out and have been using increasing amounts of E85 and E15. One complaint we hear from consumers, however, is about the lack of access to E15 or E85 at their favorite fuel retail station locations.
What can be done to give more consumers greater access to E15 and higher blends of biofuels and why does this matter? Access to higher blends of biofuels does matter for some practical and profound reasons. With 18 retail fuel stations in Minnesota now offering E15 (the “new regular”), many consumers have already had the opportunity to experience the satisfaction and benefits of using a “green fuel” in their vehicles. They save money at the pump, keep energy dollars in Minnesota, use a product that supports thousands of jobs in Minnesota and drive down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
With respect to GHG emissions, if you are driving a non-flex fuel vehicle manufactured after the year 2000, you can immediately reduce GHG emissions the next time you fill your tank with E15. By using E15 (5% more ethanol compared to regular gasoline) the carbon dioxide emissions drop. The emissions drop because liquid biofuels are made from renewable ingredients that captured, used and stored solar energy. Counting all the inputs used to grow crops, make and transport biofuels and use the biofuel in your vehicle’s engine, the GHG emissions are up to 57% less compared to petroleum gasoline.
How does the use of E15 translate into GHG numbers? If the fuel used in Minnesota during 2013 had contained E15, carbon dioxide emissions would have been pushed down by another 399,161 metric tons. That amount of reduction in GHG emissions by using E15 is equivalent to removing 84,034 vehicles from Minnesota roads for one year. Put another way, that emission reduction from E15 is also equivalent to operating 110 wind turbines, each at 1.94 MW, for one year. In other words, in addition to the economic, consumer and energy independence benefits associated with E15, E15 can contribute in a very profound way to reducing GHG emissions today!
So what can be done about giving more consumers greater access to E15? First, let’s focus on the reality at retail fuel stations. Some who are content with the status quo (that is, petroleum continues to limit consumer choice at the pump), might say it’s too difficult or too expensive for a retail fuel station to make the changes necessary to offer E15. To that comment we would ask, what station are we talking about and what changes are you referring to?
Let’s get the site specific facts before drawing any conclusions. A retail fuel station might already have the proper storage and dispensing system or otherwise be able to offer consumers E15 today. The easiest way to find out is to contact the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association. Interested fuel retailers can explore whether their station might be an E15 candidate by simply calling Greg at 612.888.9138, ext. 104 and asking about the E15 Project.
One big incremental pathway forward for biofuels and consumers is within reach right now. That pathway is called E15. The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association can help retailers determine if they are an E15 candidate. E15 can provide retailers with an important addition to their product line up and give consumers the competitively priced high octane fuel that will keep them coming back for more.
As all stakeholders work to make more E15 available to consumers across Minnesota, we are building a solid parallel pathway that will make even higher blends of biofuels available to consumers in the coming years. Maximizing all that can be done with E15 today will provide the solid parallel pathway we can use to give consumers even greater access to higher blends of ethanol and other biofuels.
Meanwhile, the next time you go to your retail station for a fill, look for E15 if you have a non-flex fuel vehicle manufactured after the year 2000. If you don’t find E15, ask for it and give the retailer Greg’s telephone number. By working together, we can do even more to give consumers greater access to renewable biofuels today and tomorrow.