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Chicago Speaks Out Against E15 Mandate

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted July 28, 2014

Chicago’s two largest daily newspapers both are editorializing against a proposed ordinance that would require the city’s gasoline stations to offer E15 fuel – a bad idea we debunked last week.

gas_capThe Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune cite a number of similar reasons for opposing the E15 mandate: research showing vehicle engines could be damaged from using a fuel for which they weren’t designed or warranted; significant cost impacts on small business owners who would have to retrofit filling stations to accommodate mandated E15; and skepticism for E15’s promised benefits.

The Sun-Times:

The ordinance could place such a big burden on service stations that some of them would close. No stations right now are certified to pump E15 gas. Six stations citywide are set up to pump fuel with even more ethanol than E15, but even they would have to make some changes to comply with the ordinance. The other roughly 400 stations, though, would face costs as high as $300,000 to make the change, according to the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. E15 would require new certification for tank systems, pump and line systems. That’s a big financial burden for a product for which there is no proven market.

The Tribune (subscription publication):

The Chicago City Council has a long history of doing nefarious things to its citizens, but as far as we can tell, it has never tried to ruin your car’s engine. There’s a first for everything. ... So why is the City Council even considering such a mandate? The best guess is that the aldermen are listening to the ethanol lobby, which is seeing a threat to its broad government subsidies and protection.

The Tribune cautions against claims of E15 benefits that are being advanced by ethanol proponents:

Even if there are benefits, they have to be weighed against the cost to retailers and the risk to consumers. Retrofitting pumps and tanks to dispense the corrosive E15 in accord with EPA rules could cost $70,000 to $300,000 per gas station, according to petroleum retail groups. The EPA has certified E15 for use only in vehicles built since 2001. That suggests a lot of cars are at risk for damage. The average age of cars on the road is 11.4 years, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. … So, once again, why would aldermen be pushing for an E15 mandate? They’re trying to take care of somebody, but it’s not their constituents. 

As we said in last week’s post, the arguments for E15 have been debunked and rebutted as attempts by Big Ethanol to defend the flawed Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS’ mandates for increasing ethanol use risks damage to engines and fuel systems – prompting automakers to warn that vehicles not designed for E15 use would not be warranted for damage caused by the fuel.

Little wonder, then, that the editorials boards for Chicago’s two largest newspapers consider the proposed E15 mandate an offer the city can and should refuse. 


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.