Chicago Pushes For E15 Availability

  • Tuesday, 29 July 2014 00:00

A big debate has erupted in Chicago over the city's proposal to require many gas stations to sell E15. Proponents for E15 want it to replace the mid-grade 89 octane gas sold in most stations in the city, a move which makes sense considering that E15 blended with 87 octane gas would produce a fuel with an octane rating of closer to 90. And it would be cheaper than 87 octane gas.

A big question surrounding the proposal includes the costs of upgrading or installing new equipment to offer E15. However, the city's proposal excludes gas stations that sell under 500,000 gallons a year or have underground storage tanks that are incompatible with E15.

In addition, like in Minnesota, there are grants being made available - from the Illinois Corn Growers Association and American Lung Association - for stations that want to convert their equipment to sell E15.

So, really, what is the problem then? Much like in Minnesota and other parts of the country, E15 faces the same opponents with the same discredited or illogical arguments.

The EPA tested E15 over six million miles and has approved it for all car models 2001 and newer. And these cars comprise over 80 percent of the cars on the road. Moreover, E15 is a clean high-octane fuel that is on average 10 to 20 cents cheaper per gallon than 87 octane gas in Minnesota and it's likely that price differential would apply in Illinois, which is one of the largest ethanol producing states in the country.

The Chicago Tribune - which is vehemently anti-ethanol - predictably ran an editorial opposing the move, based on facts that come straight of out of Big Oil's playbook. We have addressed many of these "facts" before but perhaps we can enlighten them on a few points:

E15 has been sold in Minnesota since the fourth quarter of 2013 and we have yet to hear of the supposed damage E15 causes cars.

The Chicago Tribune claims that the labels on E15 pumps aren't clear enough on what vehicles aren't compatible with E15 and consumers could get confused. Here's a sample of a E15 label. Which part is confusing?

E15 label

Last but not least, the Chicago Tribune claims carmakers such as Toyota say the use of E15 could invalidate new-car warranties. Again, this is quite vague because the following picture is a fuel cap from a 2014 Toyota Corolla.

E15 corolla 1