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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- E85 fuel has been a common site at gas stations across the Midwest, and now more outlets in other regions of the country are adding the alternative fuel to their pumps.
According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), Minnesota continues to lead the nation with 336 E85 retail locations. However, in recent years, the fastest growth of E85 outlets is taking place in states outside the Midwest.
Currently, 2 percent of all retail stations in the United States offer E85, serving the approximately 5 percent of U.S. light-duty vehicles that are capable of running on the fuel, which is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
Gas stations selling E85 historically have been concentrated in the Midwest, where retail outlets benefit from the readily available ethanol fuel supplied to blenders. In 2007, the earliest year for which state-level E85 data is available, the majority of E85 stations were located in just five states: Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
While Midwest states continue to add significant numbers of new E85 retail locations, California, New York, Colorado, Georgia and Texas also have experienced rapid growth of E85 availability, adding more than 49 retail locations each between 2007 and 2013. As a result, the share of nationwide E85 stations in the five traditional ethanol-producing states of the Midwest fell from 54 percent in 2007 to 36 percent in 2013, EIA reported.
The fastest growth is coming from California and New York, both of which increased from fewer than a dozen stations combined in 2007 to more than 80 stations each in 2013. On the flip side, New Hampshire and Alaska are the only states without any E85 stations -- down from nine states in 2007.
Still, growth of E85 locations is slowing down. The number of E85 fueling stations in the United States increased from 1,229 to 2,442 between 2007 and 2011, but only increased by 7 percent from 2011 to 2013, when the total reached 2,625, according to EIA.
With the exception of New York, the Northeast has continued to see slow adoption of E85 by retailers. In 2007, there were no retail stations selling E85 in New England. By 2013, only 13 had been added, most located in Massachusetts.
In addition, several states -- most notably, Minnesota and North Carolina -- actually reported fewer E85 retail locations in 2013 than the year before.