Which Retailers 'Passed,' 'Failed' on E15, E85?

While ethanol group gives Major Oil an F, industry cites low demand, high risk

Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) E15 E85 (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Gas Stations)

WASHINGTON -- Ethanol supporters have long charged that Major Oil has tried to block more retailers from selling higher blends of the biofuel. With a new report by ethanol advocacy group Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), this allegation is gaining some traction, including among members of Congress.

Oil industry groups such as the American Petroleum Institute (API) contend that low consumer demand for E85 and E15 is preventing their greater adoption by retailers. NACS has cautioned retailers about selling E15, warning that despite the fact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved its use in vehicle models 2007 and newer, there are still significant liability risks.

The RFA released a report card this week that grades large retail gasoline chains on their E85 and E15 offering. Among those retailers scoring A+ for offering E85 or E15 at 25% or more sites were Kum & Go, Kwik Trip, Thorntons, Spinx, Rebel Oil, Break Time (MFA), MFA Oil and Meijer Gas. Chains that earned an A for selling the blends at 16% to 25% of sites were Super Pantry, Bosselman's Pump & Pantry, Petro Serve USA and Road Ranger.

Speedway, owned by Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC), was the only oil company-affiliated brand to rank hear the top, earning an A-, along with Holiday Stationstores and Fast Stop for selling E85 or E15 at 11% to 15% of locations.

Most of the major and independent oil company brands, meanwhile, scored an F in the RFA study for selling E85 or E15 at less than 1% of their sites, including ConocoPhillips, BP, Chevron, Shell, CITGO, Sunoco, Sinclair, ExxonMobil, Hess, Alon, Murphy Oil, Tesoro, Gulf and Texaco. Marathon, the fuel distributor brand of MPC, also earned an F.

Several of the industry's largest independent chains also earned low grades, with Sheetz scoring a D for selling E85 or E15 at only 1% to 2% of its sites, and Casey's General Stores, The Pantry, 7-Eleven, RaceTrac, Wawa and QuikTrip among those earning an F.

According to RFA, of the almost 48,000 gas stations flying a "Big Five" major oil brand, only 0.6% sold E85 or E15, and only 1.4% of those branded by other oil refiners. Meanwhile, 2.3% to 3.5% of the 74,000 independent stations sell higher ethanol blends. This makes them four to six times more likely to offer E85 and 40 times more likely to offer E15, the report found.

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Part of CSP's 2014 Convenience Top 101 retailers