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    E15's Future Faces Multiple Challenges

    Still, several National Ethanol Conference panelists touted the alternative fuel.

    By Brian Berk, Convenience Store News

    LAS VEGAS –- Should E15 be a staple offering at the pump? National Ethanol Conference panelists pondered that question during today’s session, "E15: Measuring Success."

    Scott Zaremba, president of Zarco 66, is certainly one of E15's greatest champions. He was the first retailer to sell E15 at the pump last year at one of his convenience stores in Lawrence, Kan. Zaremba strongly supports the alternative fuel's future.

    "In order to put E15 on the marketplace, you need to put two stickers at the pump and change one button," Zaremba said during the session, which was the last of the two-day conference in Las Vegas. "It's a matter of educating the consumer and getting it done."

    Additionally, Zaremba reported that E15 has drawn more customers to his stores, and he has received plenty of feedback from customers that E15 enables their vehicles to benefit from improved gas mileage and better engine performance.

    Based on his own personal use, Robert White, director of market development for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), also praised E15. “I’ve logged more than 10,000 miles on E15,” he noted. “I have not seen a ‘check engine’ light, and I paid less at the pump.”

    A third panelist who was gung ho about E15’s future was Kristy Moore, vice president of technical services for the RFA. She recalled how she was one of the first consumers to fill up her vehicle -- a GMC Yukon -- with E15. “It’s an important component of the Renewable Fuel Standard,” she noted.

    E15’s CHALLENGING FUTURE

    As the panelists touted E15’s potential, they also acknowledged the many challenges standing in its way on the path to widespread adoption. One obstacle, according to White, is the oil companies' franchise agreements with gas stations.

    "Many franchise agreements don’t allow retailers to mention E15 on their marquee," he pointed out.

    A lack of support from the auto companies is also worrisome. "Thirteen auto companies said E15 could or will violate warranties. This gives us a great deal of pause. They are telling us not to use the fuel because it can damage their product," said Fred Walas, fuels technology manager for Marathon Petroleum Corp., parent of the Speedway LLC chain of convenience stores and gas stations.

    "The prospects for large-scale implementation of E15 today are worse than they were two years ago when I last spoke at this conference," Walas stated, explaining that only GM, Porsche and Ford, beginning with select 2013 model year vehicles, currently sell vehicles that can use E15.

    "The prospects for large-scale implementation of E15 today are worse than they were two years ago when I last spoke at this conference," Walas stated, explaining that only GM, Porsche and Ford, beginning with select 2013 model year vehicles, currently sell vehicles that can use E15.

    Moore of RFA admitted that E15's challenges are many. Yet, she believes the industry can rise to meet those challenges. In addition, she suggested that retailers interested in selling E15 read the "RFA E15 Retailer Handbook." This 42-page guide offers in-depth information summarizing government requirements, studies and more. The handbook is available at www.ethanolrfa.org.

    If retailers do decide to sell E15 at the pump, they must submit a Misfueling Mitigation Plan to the government agency for review, advised panelist Byron Bunker, division director of the compliance division for the Environmental Protection Agency.

    INDUSTRY LEADER

    Earlier in the day, Zaremba received the Renewable Fuels Association’s Industry Leadership Award.

     

    "Scott is a trailblazer," said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA. "It is never easy being first in the nation at anything, but it is particularly challenging when introducing an entirely new fuel. Scott is committed to offering E15 in the name of a stronger, more energy independent country."

    In accepting the award, Zaremba once again expressed his support of E15. "Introducing E15 is a good example of blazing a new trail despite regulatory delays and resistance to break our addition to foreign oil," he said. "E15 is a win-win in my book. It is part of a domestic solution to energy independence."

    By Brian Berk, Convenience Store News
    • About Brian Berk Brian Berk is managing editor of Stagnito Business Information's Convenience Store News and Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner, where he specializes in covering motor fuels, technology and financial news. He has served the magazine industry for 14 years and has also worked in the radio and newspaper fields. Berk holds a bachelor's degree in communications from the State University of New York at Cortland and a master's degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

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