Ethanol is a renewable resource made from plant materials such as corn, sugar cane and grasses, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). The most common ethanol blend is E10, or regular gasoline. Many gas stations also offer E15, commonly referred to as Regular 88, which is a blend of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. E85, which can only be used in flex fuel vehicles, contains up to about 85% ethanol and burns cleaner, leaving no residue.

Fat Dogs, a chain of seven truck stops along Interstate 80 based in Lincoln, Nebraska, is targeting new customers with ethanol. It’s planning three new sites by the end of the year and including alternative fuels while keeping traditional gasoline.

“When you come up to our forecourt, our outside pumps offer diesel for those pickup [truck] customers, and we’ll also have our ethanol blends out there,” said Jim Riewe, president of Fat Dogs. “We’re trying to capture that customer that still wants the traditional E-87 unleaded, then capture new customers with E15, up to E85 for the flex fuel vehicles.”

As of Jan. 1, there were 3,388 c-store sites in the U.S. offering E15, which is a 15% increase over the previous year, according to Growth Energy, a biofuel trade organization. It reports that by far, E15 and E85 remain the most popular alternative fuel options. But most underground storage tanks installed in the last 30 years are compatible with up to E100 blends of ethanol or have retrofit options.

“That means retailers adopting E15 now will have the flexibility to offer even higher blends in the future,” said Jake Comer, vice president of market development at Growth Energy, Washington, D.C.

While E15 has been available for summer sale for the past five years, it remains subject to federal restrictions from June to Sept. 15 each year. The Biden Administration granted emergency waivers during the last two summer seasons to ensure access to higher blends year-round, and it adopted a rule offering three years of steady demand under the Renewable Fuel Standard—something that has typically been done on a year-to-year basis in the past.

The Biden Administration included $500 million in the Inflation Reduction Act for installation of equipment needed for higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel. Of the 3,000-plus sites, most are concentrated in Midwest states, with Wisconsin and Minnesota each having more than 450 locations selling E15. New tax incentives to promote E15 have been adopted in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Illinois.