Alderman pushes to add E15 to Chicago gas stations

A powerful city alderman is behind a push to add E15, an ethanol fuel blend, to gasoline pumps in the city.
A powerful city alderman is behind a push to add E15, an ethanol fuel blend, to gasoline pumps in the city. Some say it's the answer to reducing smog and other pollutants in Chicago's air, but not everyone is lining up in support of it.

Backed by the Illinois corn industry, Ald. Ed Burke has introduced an ordinance that would mandate every Chicago gas station to offer customers the choice of E15. The petroleum and automotive industries are fighting hard against it.

When you're filling your tank, it is likely you are buying gas with a 10-percent ethanol blend. Now, there is a push at the pump for gas stations to offer 15 percent, a controversial blend known as E15.

"E15 is a higher blend of ethanol fuel and would offer Chicago drivers the choice of using fuel 5 cents to 15 cents cheaper than conventional gasoline," said Ald. Burke.

Ald. Burke says ethanol burns cleaner, too. The finance committee chairman has introduced an ordinance that would mandate all self-service gas stations to offer E15 for sale. Joining Burke in the pitch is former U.S. Army General Wesley Clark. He says E15 is good for national security.

"Every gallon of ethanol we use in America means we don't have to import that gallon plus of crude oil from abroad," said Clark.

The petroleum industry and automotive groups are fighting hard against the ordinance. They say E15 can damage cars, especially vehicles that are more than 11 years old, because they are not equipped to handle the E15 blend.

"If you go talk to engine manufactures or vehicle manufacturers that make these products, they will tell you 80 percent of vehicles on road are not approved for E15," said Roger Gault, Truck & Engine Manufacturing Association.

And gas station owners say it will cost thousands of dollars to retrofit their stations to accommodate the new fuel.

"Anytime you start to modify underground tanks and piping its a $30, 40, 50,000 minimum," said Peter Mancini, gas station owner and fuel distributor.

While the petroleum industry is lobbying hard against the ordinance, Illinois' corn industry is lobbying hard for it, and both were heavily represented at a City Hall hearing on Monday.

"This is a fight over money in the city of Chicago, all citizens ought to be careful on who is doing what to whom," said 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti.

Ald. Fioretti says City Council should take it's time and examine the whole issue, rather than make decisions based on opinions from the petroleum and corn industries.

Ald. Burke says his ordinance does include an exemption for gas stations that have storage tanks that are not compatible with E15 fuel.
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automotive gas station gas prices politics Chicago - Downtown
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