HOUSTON (ICIS)--The first service station in the US to offer a new ethanol fuel blend sparked a war of words on Friday between ethanol producers and petroleum-product manufacturers.
A Zarco 66 Oasis service station in Lawrence, Kansas, is being touted as the first in the nation to offer an E15 gasoline blend (15% ethanol, 85% gasoline) to customers.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave final approval on 8 June for the sale of E15 gasoline blends in light-duty vehicles made since 2001, much to the chagrin of petroleum-product producers.
The owner of the Oasis chain plans to soon begin offering the E15 blend at a second service station in Kansas, according to the Renewable Fuel Association (RFA), an ethanol industry trade group.
The events in Kansas have prompted a flurry of press releases from groups on each side of the ethanol issue.
"By a margin of three to one, Americans are clamouring for real choices at the pump," said RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen. "The roll out and adoption of E15 is the first step in delivering Americans the choice they want and deserve."
But the American Petroleum Institute (API), which represents more than 500 oil and natural gas companies, urged Kansas drivers to beware of the new fuel blend, saying it could damage motors. "We need to press the pause button on EPA's rush to allow higher amounts of ethanol in our gasoline," said Bob Greco, API downstream group director. "The new fuel could lead to engine damage in more than 5m vehicles on the road today and could void the manufacturer's warranty." The API cited a study by the automobile and oil industries, which said E15 could damage automobiles as well as boats, recreational vehicles and lawn equipment vehicles.
The RFA issued a return salvo on Friday, saying the findings of study cited by the API were "highly questionable" and drew a "harsh rebuke" from the US Department of Energy, which conducted its own tests on E15 fuel blends and found no problems for vehicles built in 2001 and after. Zarco 66 owner Scott Zaremba said the service station in Lawrence began selling the E15 on Wednesday.
In its first full day of sales, the Zarco 66 station reported E15 sales were 16% of its total unleaded gasoline sales, according to the RFA. "I am just a believer in reducing our dependency on foreign oil," Zaremba said. "I like us to be able to have choices."
He said motorists have questions about ethanol blend fuels, but none have reported damage to their vehicles after using the E15 blend. The fuel is blended on site at the service station.
The EPA approval of E15 opens up the market to two thirds of the US auto fleet, Zaremba said.
He said he plans to eventually offer the E15 fuel at all of his service stations.
1. http://www.ethanolrfa.org/ 2. http://www.api.org/
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(Originally published July 13, 2012, in Chemical News & Intelligence.)