Imagine yourself in the middle of a sweltering, summer Iowa day in June, daydreaming about a cool stop at your favorite ice cream shop. So, you decide to stop by for that refreshing double dip scoop, only to find the shop is closed between June and September. Huh? Doesn’t seem like a sound business model.
Ridiculous, I know, but that’s exactly what is happening with E15 – an ethanol blend that would save you money on your summer road trips – and it’s good for the environment. Thanks to an obscure federal rule imposed when the fuel blend was approved a few years ago, that rule, oddly, limits service stations selling the fuel blend June 1 and Sept. 15, or during the heart of the prime summer driving season.
It’s especially frustrating since two multi-state convenience store chains – Iowa-based Casey’s and Wisconsin’s Kwik Trip – both recently joined the E15 team by announcing they would add pumps for the higher ethanol blend at some of their outlets. They join other chains, such as Kum & Go, and a number of local stations that offer E15, giving more options to consumers.
Iowa actually hit the E15 century mark a couple of weeks ago when the Wessels Oil station in Spencer became the 100th outlet in the state to sell the fuel blend.
Still, there are some promising signs. Earlier this year, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley and other leading Midwest senators introduced a measure to push for year-round sales. And pro-ethanol lawmakers have attached provisions to deep six the rule on other legislation that’s likely to pass.
There are even signs of movement at the Environmental Protection Agency, the agency that enforces it ethanol rules. The new administrator, Scott Pruitt, recently said he’d also like to discard the seasonal restrictions on E15 sales and hopes to work with Congress to accomplish that.
These are all good signals that gas stations can get the green light to offer drivers the benefits of E15 every day of the year. Now let’s hope that lawmakers and regulators can bring some common sense and year-round E15 to the finish line.
By Dirck Steimel. Dirck the editor of the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman.