Counterpoint: E15 good for car owners and environment

Source: By Joel Hennen, Chicago Sun Times • Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gas prices are displayed on a pump at a gas station in New Orleans.

I have been hearing a lot of talk about E15, the auto fuel that’s 15 percent ethanol. Unfortunately, I’ve heard a lot of misinformation during the debate about the Chicago Clean Air Choice Ordinance, which would free Chicago fuel retailers from the oil industry’s burdensome restrictions, allowing them to sell E15.

As a retailer who has been selling E15 for a year, I know firsthand the benefits it has for the environment, consumers and retailers like me: it’s cleaner, it’s cheaper, and it gives drivers and retailers more options.

Environmentally, E15 offers clear benefits. Steffen Mueller, the principal economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, just released a study showing that switching to E15 in Chicago would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 663,646 tons — the equivalent of taking 140,000 cars off the road. Dr. Mueller’s findings reinforce those of many others who have concluded that ethanol is an environmental winner, even when you account for the fuel production process.

While environmental benefits are good for everyone, even non-drivers, E15 also makes sense for fuel consumers. I’ve been selling it for more than a year now, and my customers who are using it tell me they have seen no mileage loss. It’s been approved for use in more than 85 percent of cars on the road today, and with its higher octane, it actually improves engine performance. In fact, what my customers have noticed is savings — and the savings of 5 to 10 cents per gallon can really make a difference for working families.

 Additionally, E15 is a smart business decision. Just look at the retailers across the country who are offering higher ethanol fuels: Murphy USA recently announced that it will provide E15 at stations across Illinois, and Sheetz will introduce E15 in North Carolina. In Chicago, though, the oil industry will continue its stranglehold unless the government acts. Toward that end, a fund has been established to give retailers financial support to make the change, offering a common-sense approach to introducing a new, better product to a market that is clearly ready.

With the ordinance, retailers will get the ability to offer consumers a lower price at the pump for a fuel that will help get hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic gases out of the air. E15 strikes a blow against climate change, giving us cleaner air to breath and drivers and fuel retailers alike a new opportunity.

Joel Hennen owns Hennen’s Auto Service in Shakopee, Minnesota.