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Going back to my hometown in the suburbs of New York, I was mortified after driving past gas stations where regular was listed at a startling $3.91. I began to wonder if there would ever come a time again where gas would be considered affordable. Thanks to the new EPA regulations allowing E15 gasoline to hit gas stations this summer, filling up our tanks may become a bit cheaper.

For about 30 years, vehicles have been running on gasoline containing 10% ethanol. So why the change to a gasoline containing more ethanol? Advocates argue that E15 helps us economically and environmentally. Ethanol, a biofuel, is processed within the United States. Adding a greater percentage of ethanol to gasoline would help decrease dependency on foreign oil and lower the prices we see at the pump. Environmentally, the amount of CO2 burned from E15 is not increasing the total CO2 levels because the plants ethanol is made from have already absorbed carbon from the air. In other words, when burned, E15 returns CO2 to the air instead of actually increasing the total amount.

So what’s the drawback of switching to E15? Since ethanol comes from corn that is widely used in agriculture and livestock production, critics argue that prices for farmers (and eventually consumers) will begin to rise because we are adding another competitor into the agricultural system. Gas with higher amounts of ethanol contain less energy, resulting in reduced gas mileage.

E15 gasoline can only be used in cars built in 2001 and later. For some car owners this type of gasoline will be of no help, but economists and the EPA estimate that more than 75% of cars of the roads have been built since 2001. This number is only expected to increase in the coming years.

Currently, the EPA is working on making labels and pumps for E15 so it will be easily recognized and not confused with other forms of gasoline. Many say that this system and the gasoline will be on the market in full swing this summer. It will surely be interesting to see if this actually happens, and if the pros will out weigh the cons.

Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.