Convenience store chain Rutter’s will offer E15 gasoline, a formulation containing 15 percent ethanol, at its 16th & Cumberland Street store now scheduled to open next month. It will be the 16th Rutter’s store selling E15 gasoline.

Rutter’s spokesman Chris Hartman said motorists will be still be able to fill up with regular, plus, supreme, E10, and ethanol-free gasoline, as well as several diesel fuels.

Sometimes referred to as “high-ethanol fuel,” E15 is a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline.

Ethanol is grain alcohol, the same alcohol found in intoxicating beverages. Fermented corn is the main source of ethanol used in motor fuels.

Hartman said that Rutter’s competitors, including Sheetz, are also selling E15. When asked how E15 will be priced relative to the competition and other gasoline blends, Hartman replied “[o]ur pricing is competitive with the market.”

Ethanol has been added to gasoline in the U.S. since 2005, when a federal law required its inclusion. It was originally touted as a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil and decrease greenhouse gas emissions while boosting performance.

In 2011, the federal government enacted a summertime ban on the sale of E15, effective annually between June 1 and Sept. 15., over concerns that burning ethanol in heavily-traveled warm weather months can actually increase smog.

That ban was lifted by the Environmental Protection Agency last March, clearing the way for year ’round sales. The move was a boon to corn farmers who had been adversely affected by the trade conflict with China.

The net environmental impact of ethanol fuels—and bio-fuels generally— is still uncertain given the increased corn farming required to meet fuel ethanol demands. The U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that the impact of ethanol on net CO2 emissions depends on whether indirect impacts on land use are included in the calculations.

Ethanol can also harm plastics and some metals, making older model cars susceptible to issues caused by ethanol. This led to early fears that its addition to gasoline would harm car and truck engines. Today, E10 is said to be okay for use by any conventional, gasoline-powered vehicle, but many vintage car owners have eschewed the alternative fuel or implemented maintenance remedies to mitigate its impact on their classic cars.

Opposing industry groups for farmers and oil producers still occasionally spar over ethanol’s safety in internal combustion engines, but the consensus seems to be that E15 is safe in any gas-powered vehicle made after 2001.

If you’re thinking of using E15 in your vehicle, its age and brand are worth careful consideration. The number of explicitly E15-approved cars, SUVs, and small trucks continues to rise, but consulting your owner’s manual is always a good idea.

Small gasoline engines, such as those found in lawn mowers and snow blowers, should never be fueled with E15 unless manufacturer approval is 100% certain.

Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...


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