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NATIONAL REPORT -- Traditional petroleum — classified as E10 under the blend wall — continues to overwhelmingly be the fuel of choice sold at the nation's gas stations. But alternative fuels are beginning to make their presence felt, and the landscape could be completely different in five years' time, according to the latest Convenience Store News Motor Fuels Study.
As expected, 100 percent of retailers surveyed said they sell E10 at the pump. In five years, though, this figure is expected to drop to 92 percent as c-store operators increasingly offer alternative fuels. Natural gas, ethanol and electric are all expected to be beneficiaries.
Slightly more than 43 percent of retailers indicated that they currently sell an alternative fuel. This figure is expected to rise to 51 percent in just five years' time.
Nearly 8 percent of those surveyed sell natural gas. But that number is expected to rise fourfold to 28.2 percent in five years.
Electric charging stations are currently located at only 2 percent of retailer respondents' stores, but nearly 8 percent expect to have such an offering by the end of 2018, a fourfold rise.
The number of retailers selling ethanol higher than the E10 blend wall is also expected to be on the upswing. Nearly 18 percent of respondents sell ethanol currently, with this figure expected to rise to 36 percent in five years.
Nearly one out of every 10 retailers surveyed currently sells flex-fuels, such as E20, E30 and the most popular offering among this group: E85. More than 23 percent said they expect to offer these fuels in five years.
As for E15, it is considered the most controversial blend within the ethanol group. Even though it was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2011, some retailers have been hesitant to sell the blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline due to misfueling concerns and statements by AAA and the American Petroleum Institute that the fuel -- approved for use in cars 2001 and newer -- can cause engine damage.
Ethanol advocacy groups, as well as retailers already offering E15, have rejected these allegations as false. With that said, the sale of E15 at the pump will increase over the next five years, according to the CSNews Motor Fuels Study. Slightly less than 8 percent of retailer respondents indicated they currently offer E15 at the pump, but more than one-quarter (25.6 percent) plan to offer E15 in the next five years.
When asked to identify the most important factor when deciding whether to offer E15, a majority of retailers (54.8 percent) cited consumer demand, followed by equipment expenses and possible liability concerns.
Full results from the Convenience Store News Motor Fuels Study will be published in the March issue.