Non-ethanol gasoline pumpEnlarge Photo
Policymakers may be fighting over it, but consumers seem to like E15.
At least, that's what a new poll of 1,211 Americans from advocacy group Fuels America says.
Of those people, 82 percent said they supported having E15--a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline--at their local gas stations.
And 76 percent said they wouldn't mind seeing blends with even more ethanol, such as E20 and E30.
E15 gasoline was approved for sale by the EPA last year, and is currently offered at 40 stations in nine states, Fuels America said.
E15 infographic from SmarterFuelFuture.org
E15 infographic from SmarterFuelFuture.orgEnlarge Photo
Lack of availability
According to the poll, consumers don't want to see anything hindering the spread of E15.
Fully 79 percent of participants said any oil industry effort to block the availability of E15 would be bad for consumers.
Fuels America, which sponsored the research, calls itself an organization "committed to protecting America’s Renewable Fuel Standard and promoting the benefits of all types of renewable fuel already growing in America."
Big farming vs Big Oil?
Earlier this month, The Federal Trade Commission was asked to look into "reports of oil companies pressing independent gas stations to sell premium gasoline in addition to regular gasoline."
The two U.S. Senators who made the request, Amy Klobuchar [D-MN] and Chuck Grassley [R-IA], represent agricultural states that produce most of the corn used to make ethanol.
Gasoline stations usually only have two tanks; with one tank going to regular gasoline, they would have to choose between offering E15 and premium.
Expensive blender pumps, required to adjust the mixture between the current E10 (good for all cars built since 1990) and the new E15 may make station owners less likely to sell the new fuel anyway.
Bad for cars?
In January 2011, the EPA approved E15 for use in cars built in 2001 or later, but there is still much controversy over whether the fuel causes long term damage.
Last December, the AAA came out against E15, saying that only five percent of light-duty vehicles on U.S. roads were compatible with the fuel. Chrysler still hasn't approved any of its new models for E15.
"E15 is the most tested fuel in history and is absolutely safe for every car model year 2001 or after," Fuels America spokesman Bobby Likis said in a statement.
36 billion gallons by 2022
One organization that has historically been enthusiastic about ethanol is Congress.
Under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, the U.S. is required to use 36 billion gallons of ethanol and other renewable fuels by 2022.
The political intrigue surrounding E15 probably won't go away any time soon.
Domestically refined ethanol is needed to meet the mandated goals for renewable fuel consumption, but has been the subject of much criticism over its impact on food production, land use, water consumption, and overall carbon emissions.