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    Retailers Won’t Sell E15 Without Liability Protection

    Multiple steps remain before the biofuel will be sold to drivers of vehicles made after 2001.

    GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved the required health effects and emissions testing of ethanol/gasoline blend E15, a number of barriers still must be overcome before petroleum retailers will sell the fuel for vehicles made 2001 and later, Ethanol Producer Magazine reported.

    These barriers include approval for a misfueling mitigation plan. Additionally, state regulations must be changed to allow the sale of the fuel to newer vehicles, and retail infrastructure itself must be approved to store and dispense E15, the report stated.

    Retailers’ primary concerns about E15 include the potential for misfueling liability, cost of equipment and consumer acceptance.

    "Retailers must obtain the appropriate storage tanks and dispensers to sell the product, and this can be a very expensive investment," said Jeff Lenard, vice president of industry advocacy for NACS. "In order to justify such an investment, a certain level of consumer demand must exist. Given the opposition of the auto manufacturing industry to E15 and their concerns about the use of the fuel in current vehicles, it is very difficult to evaluate potential consumer demand."

    Lenard added that the organization is pursuing legislation to legally protect retailers who comply with an EPA-approved program in the event of a driver adding E15 to a non-approved vehicle.

    Iowa may become the first state to permit E15 sales to 2001 and newer vehicles, due to E15’s existing presence in blender pumps for flex-fuel vehicles. The state also has a renewable fuel standard in place, and incentives are available to retailers who sell mid-level ethanol blends.

    "We have been looking at state policies and have modified the necessary policies and requirements to be in a position to offer E15 fairly soon after it goes through the formal approval process and all of the registration and other requirements have been met," said Lucy Norton, managing director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. "We have moved forward very quickly to put the pieces together here to enable retailers to put E15 in this market so consumers have additional fuel choices."

    Earlier this month, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association submitted a mitigation plan to the EPA that could serve as a model plan for retailers to follow to demonstrate regulatory compliance in the future, according to the report. However, CHS Inc., parent company to the Cenex brand of convenience stores, is just one fuel supplier that has refused to sell E15 until concerns about liability issues for vehicles and equipment, potential gasoline compatibility issues related to Reid Vapor Pressure levels, state and local fuel regulations are resolved.

    Valero Energy Corp. also has no plans to offer E15 for sale. "Because E15 has not been approved for use in all engines and hasn't received warranty protection from engine manufacturers, we can't guarantee its performance and we won't sell a product we can't guarantee," said Bill Day, executive director of media relations for Valero.

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