Chicago debates using E15 gas for vehicles

Chicago debates using E15 gas for vehicles

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

E15 is a new type of blended fuel that contains 15 percent ethanol, and now a powerful Chicago alderman wants to pass a law requiring Chicago gas stations to carry it.

However, opponents said it will cost millions of dollars and that the fuel could damage a car.

"Chicagoans pay more for gas than anyone else in the nation," said Alderman Ed Burke.

Burke touted the benefits of E15 moments before a finance committee hearing on his bill that would require Chicago gas stations to sell the blended fuel.

Proponents argue that E15 is five to 15 cents cheaper than regular gas, burns more cleanly -- causing less pollution -- and because it uses more corn, would pump billions of dollars into Illinois’ economy.

Retired general and NATO commander Wesley Clark, who co-chairs an ethanol company, painted E15 in patriotic terms.

“And every gallon of ethanol we use in America means we don't have to import that gallon plus of crude oil from abroad. Buying it from nations that don't agree with us and divert their money to support terrorists," Clark said.

But others say E15 is no panacea.

The AAA Motor Club has produced a video warning that E15 could damage cars approved by the EPA to use the new fuel, which includes virtually all light vehicles made since 2001.

"Potential issues include erroneous check engine lights, the deterioration of fuel system rubber components, early fuel pump failures and accelerated engine wear," the video iterated.

And a Chicago gas station owner said it will cost thousands of dollars to retrofit their pumps and tanks to carry E15.

"What we have in the ground now works. We don't know if E15 is more corrosive, it's gonna create more leaks. We just don't know that," said Peter Mancini of Parent Petroleum.

However, Alderman Burke said those claims are really about limiting choice.

"Big oil is fighting this tooth and nail. They're not allowing the product to be available to motorists," Burke added.

Currently, E15 is sold in about 20 states but not Illinois. The finance committee did not take a vote, which means nothing will happen until at least September.

Aldeman Bob Fioretti told FOX 32 News the issue deserves a lot more study before any final decision, noting that in the end, it's really a battle between big corn and big oil with billions of dollars at stake.

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