If ever there was a suitable place to sell stronger blends of ethanol in gasoline, it's the midwest.
With vast supplies of common crops like corn, the midwestern states are ideal for ethanol production and sales. And kicking off that trend is one lone gas station in Kansas, the first to sell E15 gasoline.
E15, a blend of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol, has been approved by the EPA, but adoption of the fuel has been slow as several carmakers have been unwilling to say whether it's safe to use in their vehicles.
Others recommend against it, some say it will damage your engine, and many refuse to cover any E15-related damage under warranty.
The first station to offer it is a Phillips 66 station on Route 10 in Lawrence, Kansas. Speaking with The New York Times, station owner Scott Zaremba described ethanol as "the fuel of the future."
“Being in the Midwest, offering renewables from ethanol and biodiesel fuel are just a natural fit for us.”
The station side-steps some of the technical issues of E15 by using pumps that offer a selection of blends. All vehicles already use a 10 percent blend called E10, but the customer can also select E15, E30 and E85.
Zaremba has actually been selling these blends for a while, but previously only to drivers of "flex-fuel" vehicles. Now, the E15 is labeled for use in regular vehicles.
E15 does have plenty of advantages, not least the home-grown appeal of being able to produce greater quantities of fuel in the nation's backyard. Potentially, this could lead to reduced costs too, and it keeps money in the country, where it can help improve the economy.
Ethanol also has a higher octane rating than regular gasoline, suitable for the higher-compression engines that manufacturers are now building to improve efficiency.
There are downsides too. Availability is one--highlighted by the fact that Zaremba's station is the first in the country to offer E15 for regular cars. Fuel efficiency is another, since ethanol has a lower energy content than gasoline, and the final stumbling block has already been mentioned--lack of car manufacturer support.
Until any sort of consensus is reached, filling with higher blends of ethanol is very much up to the consumer's discretion.
And until there are more E15 stations, you'll probably have to live in Lawrence, Kansas...