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E15 ethanol blend not widely available in Oklahoma

The EPA this summer allowed gas stations to begin selling E15 gasoline — a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline. A few Oklahoma City OnCue stations are selling the fuel, but they have chosen to market the blend for flex fuel vehicles only.
by Adam Wilmoth Published: December 5, 2012
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Six months after the Environmental Protection Agency allowed gas stations to begin using a higher blend of ethanol in their gasoline, most Oklahoma retailers have chosen not to market the fuel to regular vehicles.

The EPA authorized the 15 percent ethanol blend — known as E15 — at regular gasoline pumps over the objection of car manufacturers and the AAA.

The government requires retailers who use the fuel to include a label on the pump stating that E15 should be used only in flex-fuel vehicles — which are designed to run on up to 85 percent ethanol — and in 2001 and newer passenger vehicles.

“While EPA does not require retailers to sell E15, the label will help ensure consumers are aware about which vehicles are approved for its use,” the EPA said in a statement to The Oklahoman on Tuesday.

That label doesn't go far enough, said Sharon Basel, communications manager for environment and energy initiatives at General Motors.

“E15 is safe only in our 2012 model year vehicles and later and in our flex-fuel vehicles we have on the road,” she said. “In every instance, we recommend people look at their owner's manual, which specifies which fuels are safe for use. E15 would void the warranty if the vehicle is still under warranty.”

Most Oklahoma retailers have chosen to stay out of the discussion.

Stillwater-based OnCue Express sells E15, but only at a separate terminal labeled for flex-fuel vehicles only.

“We want to take a safe approach with our customers,” OnCue CEO Jim Griffith said. “There is still debate about whether E15 will work with a regular vehicle. I don't even want to get into that. I know E15 works just fine in a flex-fuel vehicle, so that's where we sell it.”

E15, however, has not been a popular choice in Oklahoma, Griffith said.

“We sell some E85, but we don't sell much at all of the E15,” he said.

Because of the low demand, Griffith said he does not expect to add the 15 percent blend at other locations and likely will remove the option from its existing stations.

Tulsa-based QuikTrip does not offer any ethanol blend higher than the standard E10, or 10 percent ethanol mixture.

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by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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