By David Bennett, Senior Editor
Though alternative fuels are gaining momentum nationwide, gasoline is still the primary fuel that Americans use, explained John Eichberger, the executive director of the Fuels Institute, a nonprofit think tank, at this year’s M-PACT Show, which is currently being held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, from March 22-24.
In a presentation on March 23, entitled “The Fuel Market is Evolving, But Into What,” Eichberger told an audience consisting mainly of convenience store retailers and fuel suppliers that liquid fuels, including various ethanol-blended fuels, will be dominant in the U.S. for the next 25 years.
That’s despite the fact that gasoline demand is expected to drop 20% by 2035, as more Americans slow their driving patterns and as the popularity of less popular vehicles—including hybrid, plug-in, diesel, compressed natural gas and electric—continue to gain momentum.
Currently, cheaper gas prices are pushing the alternative fuel conversation to the sidelines, for now.
“If $2 gasoline disappears, interest in alternative fuels increases,” Eichberger said.
Eichberger said biofuel consumption in the U.S. is increasing. E85 now comprises 3.5% of the market.
Depending upon the likelihood of various scenarios, E85 sales will, at a minimum, double by 2023—but could experience a 20-fold increase in sales over the same time period, according to the 40-page report, “E85: A Market Performance Analysis and Forecast,” published by the Fuels Institute.
According to Growth Energy, a nonprofit that promotes the ethanol industry, there are nearly 3,000 stations selling E85 nationwide. A blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, E85 is suitable only for flex-fuel vehicles.
Though more research is expected, E15 is projected to grab more U.S. market share, especially as c-stores such as Kum & Go implement the ethanol blended offering at fueling sites.
“When those big names start putting it in, people will start paying attention,” Eichberger said.