E85 availability increasing across US, especially outside Midwest

E85. It's not just for flyover states anymore. That could be the newest slogan of the 85-percent ethanol blend now that the biofuel is proliferating in areas other than the Midwestern corn-growing states.

The Midwest's share of E85 stations fell to 36 percent last year, down from 54 percent in 2007.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), which reports that the number of the country's E85 stations jumped to 2,625 last year, up quite a bit from the 1,229 that existed in 2007, the first year such numbers were tracked. And while Minnesota remains the state with the largest number of E85 pumps, the Midwest's share of E85 stations fell to 36 percent last year, down from 54 percent in 2007.

Opponents of higher ethanol blends have gotten progressively louder as the government has pushed for more availability of a 15-percent ethanol blend (today's standard gasoline has 10-percent ethanol). Recreational vehicle makers and, naturally, Big Oil, have rallied the most against the provision of E15 and E85. Still, the number of E85 pumps in both California and New York have jumped more than sixfold in the past seven years. Florida and Georgia also had some pretty substantial jumps in E85 availability. The growth of E85 stations is so broad, in fact, that there are only two holdout states without E85 stations: Alaska and New Hampshire. Today, about one in every 50 US gas stations offers E85. Check out the EIA's press release below.
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E85 fueling station availability is increasing

The number of retail fueling stations offering motor fuel that can be up to 85% ethanol, known as E85, has grown rapidly since 2007. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), Minnesota continues to lead the nation, with 336 E85 retail locations. However, in recent years, states outside of the Midwest have experienced some of the fastest growth. Currently, 2% of all retail stations in the United States offer E85, serving the approximately 5% of the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet capable of running on E85.

Retail stations selling E85 have historically been concentrated in the Midwest, where they benefit from a readily available ethanol fuel supplied to blenders. In 2007, the earliest year for which state-level data are available, the majority of E85 stations were located in just five states-Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin. While states in the Midwest corn-growing region continue to add significant numbers of new E85 retail locations, California, New York, Colorado, Georgia, and Texas have also experienced rapid growth of E85 availability, adding more than 49 retail locations each between 2007 and 2013. As a result, the share of nationwide E85 stations in the five traditional ethanol-producing states of the Midwest fell from 54% in 2007 to 36% in 2013.

California and New York have seen some of the fastest growth in new E85 fueling stations, increasing from fewer than a dozen stations combined in 2007 to more than 80 stations each in 2013. Only two states (New Hampshire and Alaska) currently have no E85 fueling stations, compared to nine that had none of these stations in 2007.

Growth in the number of E85 fueling stations has slowed in the past two years. The number of E85 fueling stations in the United States almost doubled between 2007 to 2011, from 1,229 to 2,442, but only increased by 7% from 2011 to 2013, when the total reached 2,625. Notwithstanding the increase in the number of retail outlets selling E85 since 2007, the vast majority of the nation's approximately 156,000 retail motor fuel outlets do not offer E85.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center

Note: Traditional Midwestern states are the five traditional ethanol-producing states of the Midwest: Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Rest of United States includes Alaska, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia.

With the exception of New York, the Northeast continued to see slow adoption of E85 by retailers. In 2007, there were no retail stations selling E85 in New England, and by 2013, only 13 had been added, with most located in Massachusetts. Several states-most notably Minnesota and North Carolina-actually reported fewer E85 retail locations in 2013 than the year before. This decline contributed to the slower rate of growth in the number of E85 retail outlets observed during the past two years.

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