The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) today released a story titled "E85 fueling station availability is increasing." The topic is especially timely considering recent blows to the ethanol industry. The story notes that the number of retail fueling stations offering E85 has grown significantly since 2007, but that the pace of growth has slowed the past two years. Also, adoption has varied by region.
Recent Blows to Ethanol Industry
Yesterday we reported that the Tier 3 gasoline standards the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized earlier this week would limit the amount of ethanol in gasoline the agency certifies to 10%. EPA had previously proposed making the test fuel E15. EPA justified this decision by saying the "shift in in-use fuel is not materializing as quickly as expected, and E10 continues to be almost universal today."
Meanwhile, EPA is in the process of finalizing its Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) levels for 2014; the agency had proposed reducing the overall RFS level for renewable fuels to a range of 15 billion to 15.52 billion gallons from the mandated level of 18.15 billion gallons.
E85 Fueling Station Availability Rises Substantially Since 2007
But EIA data suggests the number of retail fueling stations offering fuel that can be up to 85% ethanol (E85) has increased significantly since 2007. According to EIA, "2% of all retail stations in the United States offer E85, serving the approximately 5% of the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet capable of running on E85."
Minnesota leads the nation with 336 E85 retail locations, but it has been states outside of the Midwest that have seen the most rapid growth. "While states in the Midwest corn-growing region continue to add significant numbers of new E85 retail locations, California, New York, Colorado, Georgia and Texas have also experienced rapid growth of E85 availability, adding more than 49 retail locations each between 2007 and 2013. As a result, the share of nationwide E85 stations in the five traditional ethanol-producing states of the Midwest fell from 54% in 2007 to 36% in 2013," EIA details.
California and New York have seen some of the fastest growth in E85 fueling stations. Between the two of them, these states had less than a dozen stations in 2007. Since this time, the number of stations has grown to more than 80 in each state, according to EIA.
Slowed Growth in Recent Years
However, EIA notes that the growth in E85 fueling station expansion has slowed in recent years. "The number of E85 fueling stations in the United States almost doubled between 2007 to 2011, from 1,229 to 2,442, but only increased by 7% from 2011 to 2013, when the total reached 2,625," EIA details. Nevertheless, this is still a small portion of the country's roughly 156,000 retail motor fuel retailers.
With the exception of New York, adoption of E85 has been relatively slow across the Northeast. Also of note, a few states, including Minnesota and North Carolina, saw a decline in E85 retailers from 2012 to 2013.