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Ethanol fuel now accepted, expected

Staff writer

Ethanol use in vehicles has varying degrees for several decades, but 10% ethanol has been the standard since 2008.

While there was pushback from many people at first, Barry Allen of Webster’s Auto stopped seeing as much opposition in recent years.

“Most everybody now has gotten used to it,” he said. “When they first started doing it, we had a lot of vehicles that weren’t made to use that type of fuel. Now there are so many made that way. It’s really become less of an issue.”

Ethanol offers less lubrication for engine parts, which can lead to decreased performance and gas mileage, Allen said. Even by 2010, however, most manufacturers were building vehicles that could handle ethanol, he said.

“Most regular passenger cars would be fine,” he said. “If you have an older vehicle, I’d stay away from the ethanol, and a lot of the small engines like lawn mowers don’t like it very much.”

While it now is common at many gas stations, the level of ethanol used can vary between gas stations.

“Up to a certain percentage it really doesn’t have to be labeled,” Mid-Kansas Cooperative’s director of energy operations Scott Barkley said. “I think there’s an understanding that there’s going to be some level of ethanol present, unless specifically said otherwise when you’re at the pump.”

A fuel’s level of ethanol doesn’t have to be listed unless it is at least 10%, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Many people simply adapted to the change since it became so widely used at one percentage or another, Barkley said.

“As happens with a lot of different things, people develop a comfort-level over time,” he said. “And really in a lot of cases around Kansas, many fuel-retail sites did not have another option.”

A new fuel act was introduced last week at the national level to increase ethanol use by “giving automakers the tools to produce engines to run on higher octane fuels,” according to a release from Kansas Corn Growers Association.

With more manufacturers building vehicles with ethanol use in mind the difference in fuel types could further be minimized, Allen said.

“I don’t know what it might do now that they’re designing them for it,” he said. “It may not even affect fuel mileage. Fuel economy would be the only thing, but it might vary depending on what kind of vehicle it is, too.”

Last modified Oct. 1, 2020

 

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