Trends in Iowa’s Annual Retail Sales of Ethanol Blends
By S. Patricia Batres-Marquez, Senior Research Analyst
The Iowa Department of Revenue publishes annual retail fuel sales data, which includes several ethanol blends sold in the state of Iowa (see Figure 1). According to this data, 2021 Iowa ethanol total sales of all blends combined reached a total volume of 1.234 billion gallons, with sales of E101 accounting for 91% (1.126 billion gallons) of the total volume sold. E10 is the most common fuel sold in the U.S. Iowa sales of E10 in 2021 were up 6% from the volume in the previous year, but down 14% from 2017 (1.315 billion gallons). In 2017, E10 sales made up 96% of total ethanol blends sold in Iowa.
Figure 1. Iowa Annual Sales of Ethanol Blends (Retail Level)
By far in second place in terms of volume of ethanol blends sold in Iowa in 2021, were sales of E15 registered2. In general, in this report E15 registered will be referred to as E15. Sales of E15 trended upward from 26.082 million gallons in 2017 to 85.634 million gallons in 2021, up 228% during this 5-year period and up 43% year-over-year (see Figure 2). In 2017, for each gallon of E15 sold in Iowa 50 gallons of E10 were sold (1:50), whereas in 2021 this ratio declined to 1:13. This reflects the increase in sales of E15 from 2017 to 2021, while at the same time it indicates the downward trend in E10 sales. Overall, sales of E15 made up 2% of total sales of ethanol blends in 2017 in constrast with 7% in 2021. Still, E15 sales were less than one tenth of total ethanol blends sales in Iowa in 2021.
Sales of E853 fell 6% from 20.426 million gallons in 2017 to 19.259 million gallons in 2021. However, last year’s sales of E85 rebounded 30% from 2020 (14.849 million gallons). The data indicates that since 2017, sales of E15 surpassed sales of E85 (see Figure 2).
2021 sales of other blends such as E15 flex fuel4 (1.303 million gallons) and E205 (0.934 million gallons) declined 20% and 21% from their corresponding levels in 2017, respectively. Sales of E15 flex fuel in 2021 were up 50% from the volume sold in 2020 (0.868 million gallons). In general, sales of E15 flex fuel and E20 are very small, each representing about 0.1% of total sales of ethanol blends (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. Iowa Annual Sales of E15, E20, and E85 (Retail Level, 2017-2021)
According to Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), as of July 15, 2022, there were 243 E15 registered refueling sites across 66 counties in Iowa. The county with the most E15 refueling sites is Polk County with 43 gas sites, fallowed by Linn (16 sites), Scott (15 sites), and Black Hawk Counties (10 sites) (see Figure 3). E15 registered is sold at retail level as Unleaded 88 (UNL88) to indicate the octane value (88) of this fuel, which is higher than E10 blend, which has an octane value of 87. As indicated by IRFA, Unleaded 88 is the lowest-cost fuel available for 2001 and newer vehicles, which in Iowa is about 5 to 10 cents/gallon cheaper compared with E10 and 40 cents/gallon compared with gasoline without ethanol6.
On April 12th, 2022, President Biden announced an emergency waiver on summer E15 ethanol ban to temper rising gas prices across the country. A permanent waiver allowing year-round E15 sales would provide more certainty to invest in the equipment necessary to supply E15 in the state beyond the 66 counties that already have refueling sites in Iowa.