In a boost to the ethanol industry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule that will allow consumers uninterrupted access to E15 all year long. The new EPA rule changes a nearly 10-year-old limitation that restricted E15 sales in most markets to the period from June 1 to Sept. 15.

Renewable fuels supporters, including those in Colorado, are hopeful the move will boost ethanol sales across the country and give a much-needed shot in the arm to the struggling ag economy.

Leaders of the Colorado Corn Growers Association, the Colorado Administrative Committee and Front Range Ethanol expressed enthusiasm for the announcement, calling it a win for consumers driving 2001 and newer vehicles, a win for the environment, and a win for the grain and ethanol industries in Colorado.

“Year-round sales of E15 is overdue,” stated CCGA President Dave Eckhardt, a farmer from Peckham, Colo.

“For years CCGA has advocated for uninterrupted access to this lower-carbon, higher octane, homegrown fuel. We expect EPA will continue to make regulatory changes to modify the renewable identification number system bringing transparency to the market and deterring price manipulation.”

As the most widely tested fuel on the market, over 4 billion miles have been driven on E15. Retailers can use the existing infrastructure at the pump, giving consumers a higher-octane fuel that is better for engines, burns cleaner (with fewer tailpipe emissions) and is usually sold 3 cents to 10 cents under regular unleaded gasoline.

“E15 is produced from grain corn grown right here in Colorado, yet this renewable energy source is often ignored or left out of the clean energy conversations,” said CCAC President Troy Schneider, a farmer from Cope. 

“Over 4 billion miles have been driven on E15 and more than 90 percent of vehicles on the road today are approved for this fuel. Eliminating these outdated restrictions gives retailers and consumers the choice they deserve all year long,” he added.

Dan Sanders, vice president of Front Range Energy, an ethanol production facility in Windsor, had similar sentiments.

“Today is a great day for Colorado consumers, our corn farmers, and ethanol producers," he said. "Consumers now have a less expensive, cleaner, renewable fuel choice all year long. E15 will unleash new demand for our corn farmers and billions of gallons of new demand for ethanol producers. I look forward to working with CCGA and CCAC, continuing to support new retail stations and educating consumers on the benefits of E15."

EPA’s action fulfills President Trump’s directive to eliminate the outdated restriction that limited sales of E15 during the summer months. The CCGA is optimistic this is the first of many steps the EPA will take to restore integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard.

While more than 1,800 fueling stations in 31 states currently offer E15, that number is expected to grow due to the new ruling. Industry experts say many more retail chains are likely to install E15 pumps in the months ahead.

However, industry leaders in Colorado expressed concern that the EPA will continue to hand out hundreds of millions of gallons worth of Small Refinery Exemptions. Granting these SREs has the potential to offset the benefits of the recent announcement, they said.