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WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Sheetz Inc. executive joined other fuel industry leaders on Capitol Hill to speak in favor of the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act.
Testifying before the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, Mike Lorenz, executive vice president of petroleum supply for Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz, threw his "strong support" behind the bipartisan legislation that will allow U.S. retailers to offer more biofuel choices to customers year-round.
The bill would extend the Reid Vapor Pressure volatility waiver to gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol (E15), allowing retailers to offer E15 without restriction from June 1 to Sept. 15.
According to Lorenz, Sheetz recently added E15 to the forecourt at more than 190 convenience stores and is growing that number every month.
"This makes us the largest E15 retailer in the country. We have also expanded our fuel offering to include E85. We did all this on a voluntary basis because we believe that providing more fuel options — in the case of E15, one that is lower cost, high performing, and better for the environment — is appealing to our customers," he said.
To date, the move has been popular among Sheetz customers, he testified, primarily because it is 3 to 10 cents cheaper than regular gasoline and is 88 octane instead of 87.
"That's what motivates fuel purchases — cost and performance. They don't care about fuel volatility, ethanol concentration, or the public policy behind renewable fuels," Lorenz said. "And, after millions of E15 transactions by thousands of E15 customers purchasing millions of gallons of E15, and driving millions of miles on the fuel, one thing is clear — we have not had a single customer complaint. Our customers like this fuel. And now, they also demand it."
However, in the case of E15, fuel retailers are forced to change fuels or re-label E15 as flex-fuel only during the summer fueling season, June 1 to Sept. 15. "Frankly, we think this problem is nothing more than a technicality that can be easily fixed with no impact to consumers or the U.S. fuel supply chain," he noted.
As a result, retailers selling E15 must spend approximately $200 a year per dispenser to switch labels and the beginning and end of the season, according to Lorenz.
"With 830 retail stations in 29 states currently selling E15, it is estimated that roughly 9,960 fuel pumps sell E15. For 2017, this switching cost is almost $2 million. That is $2 million in lost revenue for other store upgrades," he said.
That $2 million nets the U.S. "zero additional environmental benefit," he added. That cost will grow as more E15 stations come to market.
"Fuel retailers such as Sheetz, who want to give their customers a variety of fuel choices at the pump, are hamstrung by having to relabel E15 during the summer months," Lorenz said. "We are effectively restricted from being able to offer an additional approved fuel option to our customers at a lower price."
In addition to cost, relabeling opens the door to misfuelinig, he added.
To read his full testimony, click here.
According to Growth Energy, the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act was introduced in March and has 18 bipartisan sponsors.
"For years, Growth Energy has led the charge to put choice into the hands of consumers by expanding the marketplace for higher blends of ethanol. The testimony heard today provides clear evidence that Congress should move forward and ensure that consumers benefit year-round from higher ethanol blends that reduce emissions and protect our heath and our climate," said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor.
Growth Energy, representative of the producers and supporters of ethanol, launched a seven-figure campaign aimed at promoting legislation, as CSNews Online previously reported.
The campaign features TV and digital ads in Washington, D.C., and in key markets across the country. The ads encourage voters to lend their support to members of Congress who are looking for a compromise.