Motorists in several states are facing a perhaps harsh reality: they're about to see their ethanol free gasoline dry up. North and South Dakota, Iowa, and parts of Minnesota and Nebraska may soon see their precious ethanol free regular unleaded disappear as refiners face the rising requirement of using ethanol to blend in gasoline.
According to InForum, this shift is already happening in North Dakota, where suppliers are moving away from offering non-ethanol regular 87-octane gasoline, thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The act requires blending more ethanol to gasoline over time, and as gasoline demand decreases, the oil industry is faced with blending ethanol any where it can- especially gasoline that doesn't yet contain the biofuel.
“We made the switch just in the last week,” DJ’s Tesoro General Manager Mike Staudinger said Friday from his Dickinson, North Dakota station. “We’re still in the infancy stage of finding out how people are going to react, but so far there hasn’t been much response. Some customers have asked why we’re not selling (87 octane) unleaded any longer, and we just say that it’s because the refinery isn’t making it anymore.”
DJ’s receives its fuels from the Tesoro Mandan Refinery, which no longer offers a regular unleaded 87 octane option to its commercial customers, Staudinger said.
“My understanding is that the fuel that is picked up in Glendive (Mont.) and made at Mandan Tesoro — they’re not making it anymore,” Staudinger said. “I can’t say that no other station is selling it, but, generally, you’re not going to be able to go down the road and buy regular unleaded without the up-to 10 percent ethanol added. So far, I’ve only had one customer that has been really upset about it.”
North Dakota Ethanol Council Chairman Jeff Zueger said the changeover has been in the works for the past couple of years nationwide, and that the state is simply witnessing the back end of the wave.
To meet the Renewable Fuel Standard, Zueger said suppliers are generally blending ethanol at about 10 percent of the makeup of the finished product.
While ethanol-free fuel is still an available at most gas stations, it’s going to cost more due to the absence of the cheaper ethanol.
And unfortunately, motorists don't have much of a say in the matter, even though there seems to be intense demand not only across North Dakota, but much of the United States. The GasBuddy team routinely receives inquiries from motorists on where they can find non-ethanol blended gasoline.
Set at 9 billion gallons in 2008, the required number of gallons of renewable fuel blends by 2022 is 36 billion gallons, according to the EPA website. The enhanced goal was put in place in as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, though the volume of domestically produced fossil fuels has skyrocketed in the U.S. over the past six years.