A new "Consumer Choice Report Card" released by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) offers passing and failing grades to gas station chains around the country for their offerings of ethanol-blended products.
The ratings were based on what percentage of the chain stations offered E85 (85 percent ethanol blend) and E15 at their stations.
The RFA held a press call on Tuesday (July 8) to release the results — from A-plus to F.
The "Big Five" oil companies all scored at the bottom of the list — with fewer than 1 percent of stations offering renewable alternatives like E85 or E15 — while a number of major independent retail chains received A-plus grades, with more than 25 percent of their stations offering E85 or E15.
Faring the best on the report card was Meijer Gas with 58 percent of their stations offering the ethanol products.
La Crosse-based Kwik Trip also earned an A-plus score with 26 percent of its stations offering the ethanol blends.
The farmer-cooperative affiliate CHS/Cenex earned B on the report card with 6 percent of its stations offering the blends.
Brands that had less than 50 stations were excluded from the RFA consumer report card ranking effort.
Getting failing grades were ConocoPhillips, BP, Chevron, Shell, Citco, Marathon, Sinclair, ExxonMobil and Texaco, along with several others.
"E85 and E15 are made with American renewable fuel that is better for your engine and your wallet, not to mention our environment and our economy, but not enough consumers have access to these alternatives," said RFA President Bob Dinneen.
"Unfortunately, the Big Oil companies are rigging the market to take away consumer choice and prevent many retailers from offering these clean, homegrown fuels."
The report card is part of a new report from the RFA detailing how big oil companies covertly block the sale of renewable fuels in this country.
Dineen said the report exposes how the "Big Five" oil companies, along with a number of leading refiners, are engaging in strong-arm tactics and covert practices to prevent and discourage the sale of renewable fuels, especially at stations carrying their brand name.
According to the RFA report, distribution contracts routinely include provisions that make it difficult, expensive, or simply impossible for a retailer to offer consumers choices like E15 or E85.
Contracts cited by the RFA include anti-consumer provisions preventing the sale of E85 under the gas station canopy, onerous labeling requirements, minimum sales volume requirements, exclusivity provisions and other language that creates practical or financial roadblocks to the sale of renewable fuels.
The report notes that penalties for violating any of the terms of fuel supply contracts and francise agreements are severe. In most cases, oil compaies include broad language in their contracts that allow them to immediately terminate the agreement, which essentially cuts off the fuel supply to the retailer.
Some contracts specify that breach of the agreement will require repayment of franchise royalties and incentives, the report said.
Of the nearly 48,000 retail gas stations carrying a "Big Five" oil company brand, fewer than 300 (0.6 percent) offer E85 or E15 according to the RFA review of Department of Energy data.
Independent stations are four-six times more likely to offer consumers E85 and 40 times more likely to offer E15.
In the RFA report card, most oil-branded retail gas station chains receive a grade of F, meaning that fewer than 1 percent of their branded stations offer E15 or E85.
Among oil company affiliated brands, only Speedway/SuperAmerica and Cenex received high marks — A-minus and B, respectively.
The A-plus grade was given to chains that had more than 25 percent of their stations offering E15 or E85.
The RFA did the report to highlight what may be behind the lack of ethanol products at certain gas station chains. "Oil companies continually point out that they don't physically own many retail gas stations today," the report notes.
"Thus, they argue, Big Oil has 'no control' over what fuel products are offered to the consumer. However, a deeper analysis clearly reveals that it is the oil companies themselves that are blocking the sale of greater volumers of renewable fuels by retail gas stations," the report states.
The analysis and the consumer report card are the RFA's way of pushing for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) which calls for increasing amounts of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and made available to consumers:
"Cynically, oil companies frequently cite a shortage of fueling infrastructure as a reason why the EPA should lower the requirements of the RFS," said Dineen.
"Yet, as demonstrated in this analysis, the oil industry itself has deliberately created this shortage by making it as difficult and burdensome as possible for retail gas stations to offer greater volumes of renewable fuels.
"Like a child who breaks all of his pencils and then tells his parents he can't do his homework, the oil industry should not be permitted to claim it is not possible to expand renewable fuels consumption when it is taking calculated steps to stifle the broad introduction of E85, E15 and other fuels."
To see the Consumer Choice Report Card, go to