50 million reasons to offer E15. One reason Big Oil won’t allow it

In 2007, when RFS2 was signed into law, it was absolutely clear to every single refiner that something greater than 10% ethanol was going to be needed to be offered to meet the requirements of that law. Someone needs to ask the nation’s refiners: “What have you done to meet the requirements of this law you have known about for seven years?”

It’s not that Big Oil has done nothing. They’ve sued all the way to the Supreme Court and lost, and they’ve mounted a smear campaign and lobbying effort against the RFS and every possible solution to meeting its requirements that is the most expensive campaign it has ever launched.

One piece of that campaign is the ongoing “voided warranty from using E15” and phantom engine damage scare campaign. But even setting aside cars that EPA tested and approved (all cars and light trucks from model years 2001 and newer), cars that are built and warrantied for E15 have been rolling off the assembly line for two (and in some cases three) years, and about 15 million new “E15 compatible” cars will be added to the U.S. fleet every year from here forward. Along with the flex fuel vehicles that were already on the road, there are close to 50 million vehicles on the road today that can use E15 under warranty. That’s 20% of the nation’s fleet, growing by 6% every year.

It would make sense that some stations would want to offer the new higher octane, lower cost fuel to that growing market, which is why the majors ban the sale of E15 in branded stations. Yet they remain steadfast in their premium mandate, requiring branded marketers to spend an extra $150,000 for tanks and lines and dispensers to offer a fuel that only about 12% of the cars on the road are required to use, and less than half of them actually buy. Premium sales are only 5% of national fuel sales. That also means that more than half of those premium cars are “voiding their warranty” by buying something less than 91 octane. Where has AAA been on that one?

It’s not about food, it’s not about engine safety or warranty coverage, and it has never been about the environment with Big Oil. The crusade against E15 and the RFS is about having total control of our fuel supply at whatever price the oil companies decide is “fair.” When your only alternative to gasoline is using some other fuel that the same companies own and control, you have no alternative at all.

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