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Motorists probably won't notice changes at pumps

Friday, January 4, 2008

SIKESTON -- Motorists probably haven't noticed a change in gasoline at the pumps or in the performance of their vehicles -- and they won't either.

The Missouri Renewable Fuel Standard went into effect Jan. 1. The statewide standard requires petroleum marketers to use the alternative fuel E10 whenever the price is less than regular unleaded gasoline. E10 fuel is a blend of 10 percent ethanol and unleaded gasoline.

Gasoline stations were prepared way in advance before the official implementation earlier this week

"Mainly the terminals had to gear up to handle ethanol, and some didn't have the facilities to do that so they had had to put in new tanks," said Mike Geske, a Matthews farmer and Missouri Corn Growers Association president.

In Missouri, stations don't have to put a notification on the gas pump that the fuel being used is ethanol, Geske said.

"Missourians can be proud of the fact that we are one of the first three states in the nation to implement a 10 percent ethanol requirement," Geske said. "After months of work, it's extremely rewarding to see Missouri seamlessly join the ranks of Minnesota and Hawaii, the only two other states to successfully implement a statewide ethanol standard."

Exceptions to the standard include gasoline sold at airports and premium unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of 91 or higher.

Before the law was implemented, close to 50 percent of the gas stations were already using ethanol, Geske said.

"The ones (gas stations) not using it were basically the stations owned by the major oil company stations that had resisted using ethanol blends all along," Geske said.

Just like they won't notice a difference at the pumps, motorists shouldn't notice a difference in the performance of their vehicles either, Geske said. Even though all motor vehicles made since the 1970s can run on E10, there are still some misconceptions and even reluctance by motorists to use ethanol-based fuel.

"A lot of the reluctance is based on the memory of a product that used to be called methanol. It was a wood alcohol and is different than ethanol," Geske said.

Geske said there is nothing at all harmful about the use of ethanol. In fact, it's very beneficial to the air quality and significantly lowers carbon monoxide levels, he said.

"The thing is almost everybody's using it right now. It's been required in St. Louis now for several years because it was the only way to meet clean air standards," Geske said.

Using E10 doesn't require engine modifications either.

"There's no difference in gas mileage with the 10 percent ethanol," Geske said.

However, vehicles burning E85, or 85 percent ethanol fuel, will have a loss of mileage, Geske said, adding there are currently studies being done on this matter.

Major manufacturers of newer cars recommend using ethanol, Geske noted. "Right now in the United States, almost 5 percent of the total gas market is supplied by ethanol. That's the equivalent of one oil finery in the U.S.," Geske said. "So if one oil refinery went down and if we would not be using ethanol, the price of gas would be much higher than it is."

At the height of the standard implementation this week, Gov. Matt Blunt on Thursday announced he will push tax incentives designed to increase the sale of ethanol in vehicles that can use the alternative fuel.

His initiatives would provide $2 million to increase the number of Missouri gas stations able to sell E-85 fuel, which is a blend of ethanol and standard gasoline. He also would offer up to $500 a year in tax credits for consumers who bought E-85 fuel.

Blunt's proposal would also provide state tax credits worth up to $1,500 on the purchase of a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle.