When customers arrived at Linn Coop Oil Company in Marion, Iowa the morning of June 1 to fill up their 2001 and newer model vehicles with 15% ethanol they were surprised to find the pumps bagged as “out of order.”
“I had three consumers come in and ask me why the pumps were bagged and I said it’s because we can’t sell it,” said manager Jim Becthold. “It’s really hard on the consumer to understand the rules and regulations as they come down to us.”
What is really “out of order” is regulations that make it impossible for retailers like Linn Coop in Iowa to get the proper blendstock for E15 that is necessary during the summer months. “We’ll be able to sell it again on September 15, but through the summer months with the high gas prices, we can’t offer that fuel,” he said. “Really can’t see why we can’t do that. We can sell E10, E85, E30, but we can’t sell E15.” Bechtold faced the same situation last summer as he was preparing to offer E15.
Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA) sees the issue as part of a “war on renewables being funded by Big Oil.”
“Consumers who want a higher grade ethanol blend (E15) are being denied that choice,” said Braley, who is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). He notes that is exactly why Congress passed the RFS in the first place, “to make sure that we were providing a cleaner burning fuel that would help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and provide consumers greater choices at a lower cost.”
The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association held a press conference at Bechtold’s station Monday morning to draw attention to the situation. “We’re not asking for something that doesn’t exist,” said executive director Monte Shaw. “The gasoline blendstock we need to make E15 in the summer is available, it flows through the very pipeline system that services Iowa, but they will not let us take it out of the pipeline here.”
Listen to press conference here: Iowa RFA E15 press conference
Earlier this year, Iowa’s E15 retailers sent a letter to the oil refiners asking them to provide the proper summertime gasoline blendstock for E15. The letter noted that such fuels are already transported by the pipeline servicing Iowa. Yet, as of the June 1st summertime deadline, no oil refiner allowed Iowa retailers access to the necessary fuel. That refusal forced Linn Coop Oil Company and Iowa’s other E15 retailers to stop selling E15 as a registered fuel to 2001 and newer vehicles.
So, until and unless Braley and others can get the rule changed, E15 remains on summer break in Iowa and consumers will have to pay more at the pump when they go on their summer vacations.