Chain plans to offer E15 at 100 gas stations

The MAPCO Express filling station chain plans to offer the controversial E15 gasoline blend, which includes 15 percent ethanol, at up to 100 stations, it said this week.

MAPCO Express spokesman Keith Johnson said the company hasn’t yet determined which locations or how many stations will offer E15 initially.

MAPCO owns 362 convenience stores throughout the South, many of which offer vehicle fuel pumps. The stores are located in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Arkansas.

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“We have a long track record of offering new products to our customers and E15 fits in nicely with our current product lineup,” Dan Gordon, MAPCO’s vice president of business development, said in a statement. “Ethanol-based fuels have been a lower per-gallon cost alternative over the past few years and this should allow us to offer our customers additional fuel options.”

Driven by measures to increase use of renewables and reduce emissions, nearly all consumer motor fuel sold in the United States incorporates up to 10 percent ethanol along with oil-based gasoline, a blend considered safe for all automobile engines.

But higher-percentage blends have drawn opposition from disparate interests including the motor club AAA, automakers, the oil industry and environmentalists.

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Automakers and oil companies say E15 could strain the engines and hoses of most cars on the road today, and should not be promoted for wide use.

Because most U.S. ethanol is produced from corn, environmentalists argue that it reduces availability of arable land to produce food and sends excessive fertilizer runoff into waterways and the ocean.

U.S. regulators have approved E15 for use in vehicles made since 2001 and have said that studies arguing to the contrary were “significantly flawed.”

Corn farmers and other renewable fuels supporters have argued that removing oil from transportation fuels is a benefit to consumers, lowering the impact of oil prices on pump prices.

“MAPCO studied performance and demand for E15 and made a solid decision to put consumers first and foremost,” said Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, in a statement. “MAPCO consumers will soon have a money-saving, renewable, octane-boosting choice at the pump.”

Johnson, the MAPCO spokesman, acknowledged the debate about the merits of E15 .

“It’s something that we are aware of from a public standpoint, but we’ll take that into consideration as we roll out his product offering,” he said.