Ethanol Debate Heats up in Oklahoma

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Ethanol Debate Heats up in Oklahoma

TULSA, Okla. -- New legislation requires Oklahoma stations selling gasoline blended with ethanol to inform customers with mandated pump labels, a move receiving mix reactions from operators.

"We're in the process of putting them up now," QuikTrip Corp. spokesman, Michael Thornbrugh, told the Tulsa World. The c-store chain has been using an E10 blend since last September and will be in full accordance by the July 1 deadline. "We're glad the state is letting us put them up," he told the paper.

Aside from purportedly providing a cleaner burning fuel, ethanol blended gasoline on average saves motorist between seven and 10 cents per gallon which is a welcome break in light of continuous gas price spikes.

"It's an economic mandate: if you're not using E10 right now and have a competitor who is, you're getting pounded," Thornbrugh told the paper.

The ethanol movement is not universal as detractors claim use of the ethanol can cause more harm than good. Take for example Ken Bippus, owner of the Shell-branded Southland Service Center, who is doing the opposite by advertising that he is not selling the blended fuel.

To this end, he proudly flies a banner that says he sells "real gas." His opposition does come at a price as he charges about $3.95 per gallon instead of the $3.79, which is the current price at many QuikTrip locations.

"I know what ethanol does to vehicles," Bippus told the paper. "I will not sell it."

Bippus told the Tulsa World that ethanol's perceived drawbacks include corrosive action that plugs fuel filters and damages spark plugs. Vehicles using it, he said, also get fewer miles per gallon.

"Most people don't check their gas mileage," Bippus told the paper. "They're sliding something under people's eyes."

AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai told the paper that his organization pushed the labeling legislation after getting calls from members who noticed their mileage going down over the past year.

AAA, however, remains neutral on the ethanol debate, as it finds pros and cons, said Mai. In the plus column: a step toward using less fuel from foreign suppliers. However, corn-based ethanol burns hotter but definitely delivers less fuel efficiency -- sometimes as much as 15 percent less per gallon.

"You need to run some tests yourself and decide if the savings is worth it," Mai told the paper.