Ethanol Interest Grows

Higher blends may be slow to catch on

Published on: Mar 11, 2013

Missouri has an agriculture department that is generally friendly to ethanol, it would take legislative action to move beyond the current E10 ethanol blends and catch its neighbor to the west Kansas.

Last year, Kansas opened the first retail E15 station in the college town of Lawrence, Kansas. Scott Zaremba, owner of Zarco 66 convenience stores, not only opened one station, over the course of the year, he added six more locations all offering a 15% ethanol blend for motorists.

Zaremba told a group attending the National Ethanol Conference that his family made it through the 1973 oil embargo and 1991 Gulf War. His family run operation has even endured the oil price increases. However, all along, he knew there had to be another alternative. So, he started offering ethanol and biodiesel to customers.

Ethanol Interest Grows
Ethanol Interest Grows

"It was really the customers who were asking for it," he says. "If they didn't want it, it wouldn't sell."

When he first brought ethanol blends to his pumps it was in the form of E10, a fuel that contains 10% ethanol. Then last year, he offered E15. At that time, the E15 was priced less than E10, which fueled demand.

Zaremba says that E15 is a premium product at 90 octane, all while the same price as unleaded. And customers are responding. He said that the fuel accounts for 20% of his total sales.

Overcoming obstacles
While patrons in Kansas are filling up with E15, the fuel has not reached its full capacity in other areas.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska were the first officially to announce E15 was available to consumers. It is also available at a pump in South Dakota.

~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~While Missouri has a state mandates of 10% ethanol in all fuel sold across the state, it would require legislative action to increase that level to 15%. Other states may require similar revisions in law.

And despite the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval of E15 as a registered fuel, there is still a long way to go before it receives overwhelming support. Already the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers challenged the approval of E15 in court. And just last month AAA President & CEO Robert L. Darbelnet testified before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology's Subcommittee on Environment that regulators and industry should suspend the sale of E15 gasoline until motorists are better protected.

Important ingredient
Ethanol is an important market for the nation's corn producers. It has provided for economic growth both on the farm and in rural communities.

However, the federal government and Congress have been reducing incentives offered for ethanol production. This has curbed much of the growth of this industry. New construction and expansion of ethanol plants remains at a standstill. However, some slowdowns can be attributed to the 2012 drought. Industry leaders point to increasing the amount of ethanol allowed in fuel as a way to jump start production once again.

And then individuals like Zaremba point out, "it just gives us less dependence on foreign oil." Zaremba says he does not like putting our armed forces in harm's way overseas just to protect our U.S. oil interests. He says that using ethanol, by growing the fuel source in this country, is just one way that America can reduced its dependence on foreign oil.

Environmental groups like that aspect that ethanol is a clean-burning fuel.

Takes time
According to RFA director of market development Robert White, it took 30 years for E10 to be placed in 95% of the fuel sold in the U.S. He does not think E15 will be an overnight success. It will take not only governmental and regulatory approval, but also consumer and car manufacturer approval.

In October 2012, General Motors announced that E15 could be used in its 2012 or newer vehicles. Ford Motor Co. also approved E15 for use in its 2013 models and newer.