Biofuel mandated for 9 Oregon Counties

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Quigley_Sharps, Jan 17, 2008.

  1. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Law puts biofuel mix in pumps

    Green - Starting with the northwest counties, Oregon shifts to year-round use of fuel with 10 percent ethanol Tuesday, January 15, 2008GAIL KINSEY HILL The Oregonian Staff
    Beginning today, state law requires all gasoline retailers in northwestern Oregon to pump fuel with 10 percent ethanol, or E10. By fall, all gas stations in Oregon must sell the blend.

    Just a handful of states demand the use of ethanol, and Oregon officials trumpet the transition as proof of the state's green ambitions. But it's been happening slowly for a long time.

    Several of the nine counties targeted for the first phase of the switch -- Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas among them -- have used E10 blends during the winter for years, under federal clean air directives.
    Portland officials, eager to deepen their environmental credentials, began requiring gas stations within city limits to pump E10 year-round beginning Nov. 1, 2007. Some stations, including Arco and Union 76, routinely provide E10 to their customers.

    "A 10 percent blend isn't out of the ordinary," said Marie Dodds, a spokeswoman for AAA Oregon. "We don't see this as being a huge scary deal."

    In addition to the metro area, Yamhill, Polk, Marion, Columbia, Tillamook and Clatsop counties now require E10.

    The main thing consumers need to look out for is the possibility of water in the fuel. Unlike petroleum, ethanol attracts the liquid. If gas stations haven't properly drained and prepared their tanks for the blended fuel, water could seep into a car's workings, bad news for performance.

    "It will run rough and stall," said Russ Wycoff, administrator of the Oregon Department of Agriculture's measurement standards division, which oversees fuel quality.

    Distributors and retail stations have been told how to prepare for the changes, Wycoff said. He anticipates few problems.

    Ethanol is a high-octane fuel and can improve performance. But it also can reduce gas mileage -- an E10 blend by about 2 percent, according to ethanol trade groups. And in concentrations higher than 10 percent, some automobiles encounter performance problems, with some manufacturers voiding warranties if higher than E10 blends are burned.

    Snowmobiles, motorboats, and lawnmowers and other yard equipment are fine with E10, Wycoff said.

    Airplanes aren't. Some pilots with small aircraft use premium gasoline, filling up at gas stations. It's cheaper, and it's allowed. But E10 doesn't like to fly. It eats away at rubber seals, jells at higher altitudes and can stall an engine.

    "Bad things happen," said Daniel Clem, director of the Oregon Department of Aviation
    The law wasn't meant to affect pilots. "We were all caught a little by surprise with this unintended consequence," he said.

    Clem said he's trying to persuade airports to install gasoline pumps next to those that supply aviation fuel, but so far, there are no takers.

    Western Oregon's gasoline comes via pipeline from refineries in Washington state. Most of the ethanol travels via barge from Pacific Ethanol in Boardman, Oregon's first ethanol plant, which opened last October.

    All of the counties that must now provide E10 are served by distributors that get their gasoline -- and now their ethanol -- from Portland terminals. The ethanol is stored in separate tanks next to those that hold gasoline. Special equipment is used to inject the ethanol into waiting trucks so that the biofuel is blended properly with the gasoline.

    Other counties not ready

    The system's a little different in other parts of the state, and that's why southwestern Oregon will have until April 15 to make the switch, and central and eastern Oregon will have until Sept. 16. These counties need more time to prepare, Wycoff said.

    Counties in the southern Willamette Valley rely on a terminal in Eugene that hasn't installed storage tanks to hold the ethanol. And in eastern Oregon, distributors load up on gasoline at terminals in Washington or Idaho where ethanol hasn't been introduced.

    "It's a very complex system," said Brian Doherty, an advocate for Western States Petroleum Association, an oil company trade group. "It's an infrastructure issue. . . . You're talking about a whole new operation."

    Pacific Ethanol, which can produce 42 million gallons of ethanol annually, sees only benefits.

    "For consumers, it's all good," said Tom Koehler, Pacific Ethanol's vice president. "They get something renewable, something that reduces carbon dioxide and something that's cheaper."

    E10 might ease pump prices by a few cents, a welcome break to consumers paying more than $3 a gallon for regular, AAA Oregon's Dodds said. On the other hand, some retailers might charge a few cents more to cover preparation costs.

    "I don't think anyone is predicting huge changes one way or the other," Dodds said.

    Out-of-state suppliers

    The nine-county region accounts for more than half of the 1.6 billion gallons of gasoline used statewide every year. That means northwest Oregon will slurp up almost 100 million gallons of ethanol annually, far more than Pacific Ethanol can provide.

    Additional supplies will come from outside the state.

    Cascade Grain Products is building a plant in Clatskanie capable of producing 113 million gallons of ethanol annually. It will begin operating in April.

    Although both facilities are in Oregon, they rely on Midwest corn to make the ethanol. Recent academic, economic and environmental reports have criticized corn-based ethanol because energy-intensive methods are used to grow the crop and because increased demand for the fuel can push up prices for food with corn ingredients.

    "There's controversy about biofuels," acknowledged Mark Kendall, senior energy analyst with the Oregon Department of Energy, "and some have merit." But, he said, the new law's main objective is to reduce the use of fossil fuels and cut back on the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

    It is doing just that, he said.

    Gail Kinsey Hill: 503-221-8590, For environment news, go to
  2. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    VA has mandated E10 for a while. Seems no problem, but I have read where E85 is coming. Engines don't like a lot of ethanol, and I don't yet know why. FWIW, mileage did not seem to suffer, and I've had no fuel related problems.
  3. Tracy

    Tracy Insatiably Curious Moderator Founding Member

    I've been watching that sticker on (and off) the pump for quite a while now. My vehicles run better without it.
survivalmonkey SSL seal warrant canary