The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 26, 2013

New fuel causes concern

JOHNSTOWN — Fueling up your vehicle could soon become a bit more confusing.

One type of gas has been in use for years at gas stations everywhere. The other will allegedly void your warranty and doom your car to an early death, if auto industry buzz is to be believed.

The EPA in October granted a waiver under the Clean Air Act that allows the sale of E15, a gasoline blend with 5 percent more ethanol than today’s standard, E10.

Automakers, dealers and even the AAA are now taking shots at E15’s market viability, citing concerns about ethanol’s potentially damaging effect on engines and consumer awareness about the product.

According to the EPA’s list of frequently asked questions about E15, any car with a model year of 2001 or later is able to burn E15 with no ill effects.

Local mechanics are skeptical, although most admitted that E15’s underexposure has limited their range of knowledge about what it actually does to a car over time.

But they do know that too much ethanol can be a bad thing.

“It pulls moisture out of the air,” said Craig Fry, manager at Ferndale Service Station along Ferndale Avenue. “To me, it doesn’t hold up as well as other fuels.”

Any motorist who has left a car unattended for the winter months feels this pain. The condensation that forms on the inside of the gas tank during the freeze and thaw drips into the fuel supply, making it much harder (or impossible) to start a car with the diluted fuel.

Ethanol also burns hotter.

“The higher the octane, the harder it is on the motor,” said Christopher Mazzarese, owner of Mazz Auto along East Second Street in Conemaugh.

“That’s why you don’t spray ether, which is in starting fluid. It could destroy the motor. ... It’s just too highly combustible.”

Unsurprisingly, the organizations on either side of the argument have vested interests in standing their ground.

The EPA and biofuel advocacy groups accuse detractors of trumping up E15’s bad reputation to keep Big Oil on the energy throne, while detractors hammer the EPA for pushing this green alternative with little consideration for motorists and their vehicles.

Nissan, Chrysler, Toyota, BMW and Volkswagen will not cover E15 damage under warranties and Honda, Mazda, Kia, Hyundai, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Ford have stated that use of E15 could void the warranty altogether, according to a statement made by AAA in November to environmental blog E2 Wire.

What everyone can agree on, however, is that most motorists simply have never heard of E15.

The first E15 pump was installed in Kansas last summer. Although it’s not nearly as ubiquitous as E10 – yet – a Misfueling Mitigation Plan is in place to help keep drivers from using the wrong fuel. It requires colored pumps with warning labels to designate which is E15.

But what if it’s too late and the damage is already done? That remains to be seen.

“Of course they’re not going to put something down on black and white,” said Mazzarese. “It’s a billion-dollar industry.”

But after a recent request for a rehearing on the E15 ruling was denied in federal court, it seems the biofuel is gaining ground.

There’s still one surefire way to make the right decision for your car, according to Laurel Auto Group co-owner Matt Smith: Read the manual.

“Our manufacturers spend a lot of time and money through their engineering departments,” he said. “I would strongly encourage owners to be sure that any fuel or lubricant product is compatible with their vehicle before using.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    Here are the names of the 10 entrants that were chosen today-April 24, 2014.  If you see your name, call the Circulation Department at 814-532-5000 (#1) or 1-866-307-0905 to verify your information.

    April 24, 2014

  • WilliamsA ‘I thought I was going to die’

    Hornerstown resident Robert “Bobby” Williams said he endured two hours of surgery, suffered a heart attack and fears he may never again be able to fully use his right arm.

    April 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    Here are the names of the 10 entrants that were chosen today-April 22, 2014.  If you see your name, call the Circulation Department at 814-532-5000 (#1) or 1-866-307-0905 to verify your information.

    April 22, 2014

  • JFD traing Firefighters practice river rescues

    Johnstown Fire Department members lift a “victim” out of the rescue basket during training Wednesday along the Stonycreek River flood-control wall

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • sewer meeting map Sewer work will tie up traffic

    Brace yourselves.
    This summer’s sewer main replacement project will delay traffic with detours, closed streets and lane restrictions through one of Johnstown’s notoriously snarled neighborhoods.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • USS Somerset USS Somerset arrives at San Diego homeport

    The USS Somerset is home.
    The amphibious transport dock ship named in honor of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 arrived at its new homeport of Naval Base San Diego on Monday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jablonski, Stephen Charges filed in courthouse bomb threat

    A Johnstown man was charged by Ebensburg Borough police Wednesday with threatening to blow up the Cambria County Courthouse, a call he admitted to Ebensburg police he made Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vizza, Peter Vizza voted deputy mayor

    The top vote-getter in last year’s Johnstown City Council election is now also the city’s deputy mayor.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Conemaugh Township rezoning opens business possibilities

    A portion of South Main Street in Davidsville will be rezoned to give greater allowances to the businesses along the road.

    April 23, 2014

  • Sculptor’s work to be raffled off

    The work of a local sculptor will be raffled off during the Art in Bloom show.

    April 23, 2014


Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads