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E15 gas is cheap. Should you be using this alternative fuel?

picture of Casey's.jpg
Ann Thompson
/
WVXU
Casey's gas pump in Mt. Carmel shows blue for unleaded 88 or E15.

Casey's and UDF call it unleaded 88. Thorntons labels it U88. And Tom's Marathon in Harrison calls it E15. No matter what you call it, it's less expensive than traditional fuel.

You may have noticed another kind of gas at the pump. E15 is cheaper than regular unleaded with a higher octane. It has 15% ethanol while other kinds of gasoline at the pump have only 10%.

Ethanol is made from corn, something Ohio has a lot of, and as market development director for Ohio Corn and Wheat, Brad Moffitt has been working to get it into more gas stations.

“We have slowly built the infrastructure in Ohio where we now have approximately 90 stations where consumers can purchase the product," he says. "In the Cincinnati area, there are Thorntons stations, UDF stations and over in Harrison, you have Tom’s Marathon.”

It’s also at Casey’s in Cincinnati and Dayton. While it’s the same product, the names are different:

  • Casey’s - unleaded 88
  • Thorntons - U88
  • Tom’s Marathon (Harrison) - E15
  • UDF - unleaded 88

Moffitt likens the corn belt to the rain forest because of all the CO2 removed. It’s estimated that for every acre of corn in Ohio - and there are three million of them - ethanol removes 36,000 lbs of CO2 from the air each year.

When if comes to regular fuel (10% ethanol), Moffitt says it’s like removing 3.8 million cars from the roadways every year.

But what vehicles and machines can use E15?

The EPA says any vehicle 2001 or newer can use a gas with 15% ethanol.

Also, AAA Director of Automotive Services Bob Kazmierczak says check your gas cap. “The easiest way to tell is the gas cap will be yellow and it says it accepts E15 or uses E15.”

There was confusion after car manufacturers said in 2011 they would void the warranty of drivers using E15.

They have since backed down.

Still:

Moffitt says check your manual, but he says E15 has never caused any engine damage. “The preferred fuel is right on the gas cap. Use it. But I’ll also tell you once the engine is out of warranty and you decide you want to use the 15% product and it calls for regular gasoline or 87 octane, I wouldn’t hesitate to put the 15 product in,” he says.

E15 is not approved for lawnmowers, tools, motorcycles and boats.

Look for more E15 pumps soon. It appears Ohio lawmakers will reward gas stations for providing them. House bill 165 gives gas stations a five-cent-a-gallon tax credit for fuel containing between 15% and 85% ethanol. It now moves on to the Senate.

ethanol plant.jpg
Ohio Corn and Wheat
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One of Ohio's seven ethanol plants. There are about 200 nationwide.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.