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Michigan is getting more E-15 fuel pumps

Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz
wikipedia/creative commons

Michigan will have about 89 new E-15 pumps soon, due to federal grants.

Currently, most gasoline pumps in the state deliver gas with 10% ethanol, a fuel made from corn.  

The federal government is encouraging wider distribution of gas with higher blends of ethanol.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford have been making vehicles that run on E-15 and higher blends for years.

"These pumping systems will allow for higher blends to be sold to the 16 million flexible-fuel vehicles that have been produced by Detroit that can use higher blends," says Vilsack.

The U.S. EPA says any 2001 model year car and newer can use E-15.

But automakers say that's not necessarily true.  They say owners should consult their owners' manuals to see if they can use E-15.  E-15 is also not recommended for most small engines such as those in boats and motorcycles.

The federal Renewable Fuel Standard requires an increasing amount of ethanol to be blended into gasoline each year. Increasing the number of E-15 pumps is one way to get more ethanol into the fuel supply.

Another way is to increase the use of E-85.  However, a gallon of E-85 has significantly less energy it in than a gallon of gasoline, which makes the blend significantly more expensive, on a miles per gallon basis, than E-10.

Some experts believe the environmental benefit of ethanol – its CO2 emissions are lower than gasoline – is offset by the large amount of water and fertilizer needed to grow corn, harvest it, transport it to ethanol producers, and then transport the ethanol to blenders.

Research continues into ways to make ethanol from plants that require less water and fertilizer, but so far, the research hasn't produced an economically viable method of producing large amounts of ethanol.

Petroleum industry lobbyists are trying to convince members of Congress to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard, while the biofuel lobby is fighting such a move, saying it would jeopardize jobs as well as keep the nation dependent on foreign sources of oil.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.