The Controversy Over Fuels

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The Controversy Over Fuels


ATLANTA -- The most controversial topics in fuels -- the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and E15 -- took center stage during the NACS Show educational session, "Biofuels: A Look Ahead."

Scott Zaremba, owner of Zarco USA in Kansas, kicked off the session by reporting that E15, a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline, is selling well at his eight locations. He said he's happy he made the move to start selling the alternative fuel in July 2012.

"We’ve had no issues at all with E15," said Zaremba. "Ethanol is part of the answer to government CAFE [corporate average fuel economy] standards."

By "issues," he was referring to misfueling concerns and the potential for engine problems, which opponents have said are strong possibilities for those fueling with E15. In fact, that was one point presented in an opposing view from speaker Prentiss Searles, marketing issues manager for the American Petroleum Institute (API).

"We’ve had studies show that some cars fueling up with E15 can have engine valve damage,” Searles said. “We’ve also seen the check engine light coming on when it shouldn’t and not coming on when it should."

The API executive also stated that the RFS is "broken" and his organization recommends it be repealed. The RFS requires refiners to use 13.8 billion gallons of ethanol this year and 15 billion by 2015. Ethanol is typically combined with gasoline in a formula of up to 10 percent, which is referred to as the blend wall.

"There were a lot of assumptions made when the RFS went into effect in 2007," said Searles. "One major assumption is that fuel consumption would increase from year to year, but it has actually declined."

Moderator John Eichberger, vice president of government relations for NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, concluded that getting any legislation changed in Congress is a difficult challenge right now. However, he did note that Congress is reviewing the RFS and he predicted that changes would be made to the controversial government mandate.