WNY Energy CEO: More ethanol in gas would lower price at pump

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 March 2022 at 6:04 pm

Switch to E15 could save consumers up to 25 cents a gallon

Photo by Tom Rivers: Tim Winters, president and CEO of Western New York Energy in Medina, said ethanol is a domestic supply that can bring down the cost of gas significantly.

MEDINA – A surefire way to bring down the cost of gasoline: add more ethanol to the gas blends.

That is the message from the CEO and president of Western New York Energy, which produced 62 million gallons of ethanol annually.

Tim Winters, leader of the facility on Bates Road, noted that the state has already approved for gas to go from 10 percent ethanol to 15 percent. The state Department of Agriculture and Markets made that decision on Nov. 21, 2019.

But the gas stations, which are heavily influenced controlled by oil companies, haven’t budged. Gas remains at E10, when E15 would likely bring the cost down much closer to $4 a gallon.

The average price is currently $4.35 a gallon for unleaded in the state. Winters said E15 in Pennsylvania and West Virginia cut about 25 cents off the price per gallon.

“These market conditions show yet again how consumers are at the mercy of oil companies,” Winters said. “And with higher blend rates we can have cleaner air for our kids and support our farmers.”

Using more ethanol in gas – increasing the blend from 10 to 15 percent – would lower the price at the pump, be better for the environment and also reduce the oil imports from Russia, Winters said.

He believes the gas stations would insist on E15 if customers demanded it. He is urging people to request E15 at gas stations.

“The oil companies are spreading misinformation,” Winters said. “This is David vs. Goliath.”

The voice of the customer, however, would make a strong impression on the gas stations, and could lead to E15 being offered. Right now, Winters said only a few gas stations offer E15 in the Albany area.

The change to E15 in New York would lower carbon emissions by 748,000 tons annually, which is the equivalent of removing 129,400 vehicles from New York’s roads, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

Provided photo: Western New York Energy also is nearing completion of a new high purity distillation system.

Winters said E15 gas has now been driven 16 billion miles “without a single issue.”

The ethanol plant in Medina is currently the only one operating in the state. It will soon open a new high purity distillation system that can produce up to 15 million gallons of high-purity alcohol to be used in the pharmaceutical and beverage industries, and other industrial purposes.

Winters said the Medina plant is diversifying “because the fuel market can be a bumpy ride.”

Opening the plant in November 2007 has proven a success for the community, providing a big buyer for corn and producing about 60 million gallons of ethanol that is blended in gasoline.

Since the plant opened the corn yields have drastically increased around the state. The yields went from 97 bushels per acre in 2002 to 167 in 2021, which was a record high for New York.

Winters said the switch to E15 would mean more opportunities for corn growers and the local ethanol plant. But he said he feels for motorists who are paying near record-high prices. He wants them to have relief at the pump, and for the U.S. to not be enriching Russia with imported oil.

On March 17, about 1,000 farmers, workers in the ethanol industry, and other biofuel supporters sent a message to President Biden to broaden the use of ethanol blends like E15.

The letter was signed from people in 30 states.

“Simply allowing gasoline blenders to sell E15 year-round would instantly help moderate prices at the pump and deliver relief to American families,” the letter states. “Today, E15 is selling for 10-25 cents per gallon less than standard gasoline, meaning year-round use of the fuel would save the average American household at least $125-200 on its annual gasoline bill. Those savings would accrue immediately while also providing energy, environmental and economic benefits for the long-term.”

Winters said local residents can make a difference by simply requesting E15 as an option when they buy gas.

“Just ask the retailer for E15,” he said. “Tell them you want a lower-priced option.”

The ethanol industry doesn’t have near the resources to counter the power of oil companies, he said.

“As a state and a nation, we continue to place the financial wellbeing and clean air responsibilities of our citizens in the hands of dirty, harmful gasoline and oil producers,” Winters said. “Now is as good a time to make a change for the benefit of our neighbors – by putting some more money in their pockets while we are cleaning the air we all breathe.”

A push for E15 would also have a big benefit for the agricultural community.

“This provides critical support for New York farmers that are facing historically high input prices and facing the same financial struggles as consumers,” Winters said.