Let’s be clear: Gasoline retailers do not have to supply E-15 in their stations. There’s no mandate, just EPA approval.
Only a limited number of fuel pumps are actually certified to dispense fuel blends higher than E-10, and fewer stations have underground tanks to hold fuel blends in what has been a specialty fuel category. Gas station owners and other groups among the ethanol skeptical are considering their game plan now. Those who bought in on the blender pump option are in luck, they have everything they’ll need to dispense E-15.
But, let’s say approval on Tier 1 never comes. That would leave consumers with a choice of regular E-10 fuel, E-15 for later model vehicles, and E-85 for flex-fuel vehicles. The EPA can regulate and slap warning labels on whatever it likes, but what’s stopping someone from filling his trusty 1989 Honda Accord with a tank full of potentially cheaper E-15? Well, there’s not much standing in the way of a vintage fuel tank and this potential fuel of the future.
Last week, the EPA released its version of a security guard … the warning label. Caution! This is an early example of what an E-15 warning label may look like.
Federal law prohibits many things, but how many people don’t pay taxes? Okay, I could go on, but you get the point, it is difficult to make people do things the government tells them they ought to if there is little chance for repercussions. No one will be waiting pumpside with a pad of tickets for fueling violations. Unless there's a really intense gas station owner out there who prevents misfueling by taking the law into his own hands. Probably not.
So, there are fuel zealots and there are regular consumers, who just want a cheap price per gallon. Will an extra fuel choice confuse people? Will the warning label be enough to dissuade the man with the vintage Honda from using an unapproved fuel in his import?
If you have answers to these questions, the EPA wants to hear from you. In November, it will hold a listening session in Chicago, Ill. If you can't make it to The Windy City, mail in your comments at regulations.gov.