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NACS Favors Giving Consumers Options At the Pump

  • Thursday, 07 February 2019 14:11

Ethanol Producer Magazine

February 6, 2019

By Matt Thompson

For the National Association of Convenience Stores, selling E15 is a matter of giving consumers plenty of fuel options. “We like the optionality of being able to have lots legal choices and really sell what the consumer wants to buy,” said Paige Anderson, NACS’s director of government relations. “And in our minds, that’s the best way to go, so we like the fact that there’s lots of choice out there for us and we think ultimately that’s the best thing for the consumer.”

But, she says, the biggest barrier preventing retailers from adding E15 to their product mix is not being able to offer the fuel year-round. “What we hear over and over from our folks is … ’When are we not going to have to change our labels after nine months?’ This is the number one issue we hear about for those either trying to sell E15 or who are looking and exploring to sell E15,” she said.

So it’s no surprise that NACS is keeping an eye on EPA’s rule making process to extend the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver to blends higher than E10, and allowing their sale year-round. President Donald Trump directed the EPA last year to allow for year-round sales prior to 2019’s driving season.

“For those that are on the sidelines that have been looking and are interested in getting the E15, they’ve been waiting until this gets approved and they have the ability to sell year-round,” Anderson said. “So … making sure that we get that RVP one-pound wavier for E15, certainly has been a key issue for our folks looking to expand and start selling E15 to consumers.” She added that it’s also a major issue for retailers who are already selling the blend, as changing labels is a hassle.

Two issues NACS is watching closely are potential renewable identification number (RIN) reforms and the small refinery exemption process. Anderson both issues have potential to effect retailers.

“The folks that sort of negotiated this deal to get this to happen, they want to do a lot of changes to the RINs program, … which potentially could be very harmful and have the opposite effect of trying to encourage more biofuel into the marketplace. And so, ok, we’ve done a good thing by allowing year-round sales of E15, but now we have to look at all of these reforms to the RIN program that aren’t needed or makes it more difficult.”

Anderson said NACS’s focus on small refinery exemptions has been around gaining more transparency into how decisions are made and who receives the waivers. “We strongly believe we need to know what the criteria is in granting a waiver so that we all know what the rules of the road are in the process and how you grant it,” she said. “And then we believe when a decision’s made one way or another, that that information is given to everybody at the same time so that a particular entity doesn’t have an unfair advantage.”

And how EPA deals with extending the waiver and RIN reform will play a role in whether or not the rulemaking is completed in time for the summer driving season. “It’ll be interesting to see how they deal with the one-pound waiver rulemaking and how they deal with potential RINs reform,” she said. “Do they do it together? Do they do it separate? And I think that’s going to also effect how long they take and how this moves.” She added that, barring another government shutdown, NACS feels it is possible for the RVP waiver for E15 to be in place prior to the summer driving season.

Despite the prohibition on selling E15 during the summer months, Anderson said retailers who are currently offering E15 are happy with the product. “Our folks that have jumped in with both feet and are giving it a try have been positive and they really want to be able to sell it year-round,” she said.

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