Prime the Pump Partners Have Contributed to Growth of E15
Ten years ago, no one knew what E15 was.
But today, when a consumer pulls up to a gas station and has the option of fueling up with E15 — a federally approved fuel with 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline — chances are, it’s because of Prime the Pump.
Prime the Pump began in 2013 and targets high-volume, high-profile retailers to assist with initial investments in infrastructure to support E15. The biofuels industry has invested nearly $70 million in this initiative.
But it was the forward-thinking retailers — like Sheetz, Casey’s, Kum & Go, Minnoco — that were willing to be ahead of the curve that have contributed to the great success of Prime the Pump and E15 fuel, which has been branded in many markets as Unleaded 88.
“Our retail partners, who like us support consumer choice, have been instrumental in getting E15 year-round across the finish line,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “They were the face of the fight — joining us in Hill after Hill meeting, penning op-eds and conducting countless media interviews — telling their story convincingly and repeatedly. Growth Energy and the industry as a whole are forever grateful for their commitment to this fight alongside us.”
Sheetz, a chain of family-owned convenience stores based in Altoona, Pa., has been selling E15 since 2015. Offering E15 was a way for Sheetz to differentiate itself from its competition, said Mike Lorenz, Executive Vice President of Petroleum Supply. Today, E15 is available in 40 percent of the chain’s stores across six states.
“It’s a great fit with our brand promise. We want to offer our customers a choice of quality products,” Lorenz said. “E15 is cleaner burning and American made, which can help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And we can offer it for less.”
Casey’s, headquartered in Ankeny, Iowa, has plans to expand its offering of E15 to 500 locations over the next few years. The goal is to be the nation’s largest E15 retailer, said Nathaniel Doddridge, Director of Fuels.
“Some of our competitors had the product before we did, so consumers saw it in the marketplace and were asking for it,” Doddridge said. “Consumers like the value. They can get a premium product at a lower price. It’s an easy selling point for us.”
The spectator growth of E15 is a testament to the value it brings to retailers and consumers. Prime the Pump efforts have secured commitments of more than 2,800 retail sites that will offer E15 by 2021 generating approximately 350 million new ethanol gallons annually, said Majda Olson, Director of Communications for Growth Energy.
That growth is only going to continue. In May, the Environmental Protection Agency lifted the nearly decades-old limitation on year-round E15 sales, sending ripples of excitement among farmers, ethanol producers and retailers across the country. Previously, E15 sales were restricted in most markets from June 1 to Sept. 15.
Year-round sales “will really take this product to the next level,” Doddridge said. “Maybe it won’t be enough to have E15 available in 500 stores. Maybe we’ll need to have E15 available in 1,000 stores.”
Nationwide adoption of E15 is anticipated to drive the production of 7 billion gallons of biofuels, creating an additional demand for 2 billion bushels of corn each year, and unlocking new domestic demand for homegrown fuels at a critical time for America’s farmers.