Editor’s note: This column is in response to a Dec. 31 article, “What’s up with that 88 octane fuel?”
Q: Why are gas stations selling this new 88 octane fuel?
A: In October 2018, President Donald Trump set the necessary regulatory process in motion to allow for year-round sales of E15, thereby allowing consumers more choice at the pumps and helping improve economic conditions across the country.
Q: Is the E15 safe for my car?
A: Ethanol-blended fuel has several benefits to your engine, including helping keep your fuel system clean for better performance and preventing wintertime problems by acting as a gas-line antifreeze. Auto manufacturers have made design changes to vehicles to make them ethanol-compatible and take advantage of ethanol’s benefits.
All vehicles can use E10 gasoline and two-thirds of new car owners’ manuals approve the use of E15 (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline).
Q: Why is octane 88 priced lower than regular gas?
A: Blending ethanol with gasoline reduces reliance on crude oil from foreign entities, thereby reducing the total production cost. According to a study from the University of Wisconsin, “The average effect across all regions increases to $1.09/gallon and the regional impact ranges from $0.73/gallon in the Gulf Coast to $1.69/gallon in the Midwest.”
The ethanol industry does not receive government subsidies.
Q: What does the octane rating mean?
A: An octane reading is the measure of performance of an engine fuel. Pairing today’s engines with higher-octane blends improves vehicle performance and efficiency while using less energy and releasing fewer emissions.
Q: I heard that an occasional tank of premium gasoline is good for the car.
A: There are no benefits to using a higher octane than what your vehicle manufacturer recommends in the fuel section of the owner’s manual. The EPA requires each vehicle to be certified on emissions and operation prior to sale to consumers; octane is included in this certification.
Q: Is it true that the higher the ethanol content, the worse the gas mileage?
A: Ethanol has a higher-octane number, providing higher compression ratios, which makes an engine run with more power. There is very little, if any, difference in gas mileage in using an E10 or E15 blend of fuel. Drivers who use E85 may see a 10 to 15 percent less fuel economy, but the savings from the lower price of E85 compared to regular gas offsets that difference in mileage.
Q: Is 15 percent ethanol safe for lawnmowers or chainsaws?
A: No, E15 is not approved for use in small engines, like those that power lawnmowers and chainsaws. It is approved for all cars and light trucks, 2001 and newer, with over 6 million miles of testing to prove its performance and engine safety.
Q: What’s up with that E85 fuel?
A: Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) can use all forms of gasoline up to E85 (85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline). Drivers often opt for this blend to reduce prices at the pump and to utilize a cleaner-burning fuel that supports American farmers over foreign oil.
According to the National Corn Growers Association, in 2013, the U.S. ethanol industry helped support nearly 390,000 jobs while contributing more than $44 billion to the GDP and adding $30.7 billion to household income. This generated more than $8 billion in tax revenue for federal, state and local governments.