Over the weekend, NASCAR burned plenty of E-15 fuel at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the Brickyard 400 and several other races. But the blend of gasoline and 15% corn based ethanol still faces many hurdles. After being approved by the EPA early in the year, the nation’s first E-15 fuel station opened to the public in Kansas just a few weeks ago. Robert White, with the Renewable Fuel Association, says the reaction to the new fuel has been tremendous, “Within just a few days, E-15 represented 25% of the stations total fuel sales.” While the reception by consumers was very warm, the reaction by the oil companies was not. White told HAT during an interview at IMS that within 24 hours of the station selling E-15, their fuel supplier, Phillips 66, informed the station owner he had to put a label on the pump that state E-15 was not a Phillips 66 product, “Within 2 days, the American Petroleum Institute put out a press release telling Kansas motorists that E-15 would damage their cars.”
Even with these challenges, both science and economics are on the side of ethanol. Higher ethanol blends provide higher octane to gasoline, something NASCAR is demonstrating at every race; and, with ethanol running 40 cents a gallon less than gasoline, E-15 is running about 10 cents a gallon less than regular E-10.
White predicts that more stations will make the switch and start offering E-15 to the public this fall, “I think we will see a large number of stations start to offer E-15 after mid-September when the winter formulation of gasoline comes on-line.” He told HAT several stations in Iowa will likely be the next to offer E-15.
On Friday, as NASCAR burned up the track on E-15 fuel, Indiana ethanol stakeholders gathered to get an update on the renewable fuel. Sponsored by the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, the meeting featured national ethanol leaders, NASCAR team owners, and mechanics, who all talked about their support for E-15 and how well the fuel is performing. National ethanol leaders praised Indiana for having cost share programs to help retailers add blender pumps to their operations.