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Earlier this year, President Biden called on the Environmental Protection Agency to issue emergency waivers for E15 gasoline. The fuel contains up to 15% ethanol and is typically prohibited in the summer months between June 1 and Sept. 15.
However, with the waiver, the sale of E15 has continued this summer.
"Where E15 is available, consumers are buying it because it's a little bit more octane, but you're saving a lot of money," said Monte Shaw, Executive Director for Iowa Renewable Fuels.
Shaw says anecdotally, retailers tell him more drivers are turning to E15 to save money. That's a claim backed up by the most recent Casey's quarterly call. CEO Darren Rebelez stated a change in consumer habits, with a 2% increase in E15.
"Just this week over 40 retailers got grants from the state of Iowa under the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program to put in E15," Shaw added.
Shaw says those grants allow retailers to apply for funds to help offset the cost of installing E15 pumps or tanks.
"It might only be $2,000, $3,000 or $4,000 of equipment, which these grants go up to $50,000 which they'll cover."
For some stations, Shaw says a total tank replacement would mean a cost in the six-figure neighborhood. But, he adds if a station was already considering tank upgrades, these funds would be a major help.
"Many of these grants go to smaller retailers who might only own one or two stores," Shaw said. "And what they're saying is, 'If I don't put any E15, I'm not going to be competitive, because the guy across the street is putting it in, and he's selling fuel 15 cents cheaper than I am.'"
Out of the roughly 2,400 gas stations statewide, Shaw says about 250 offer E15. A number he hopes to see grow in the coming years.
"And we want every Iowan to have that choice," he said. "I get to save 15 to 17 cents a gallon. We want to make sure everybody in all 99 counties can do that."
Gov. Kim Reynolds this year led a bipartisan group of governors in penning a letter to the EPA, asking E15 be available all year round. While the EPA still has to sign off, Shaw adds the language in the Clean Energy Act leads him to believe it will be an easy yes.