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Gas station owners soak up cost of ethanol switch
NORTH END — It’s near time 85 percent of gasoline consumed across the state contains 10 percent ethanol.
Senate Bill 6508, signed March 30, 2006 by Gov. Christine Gregoire, passing the Senate with 29 yeas and the House with 68 yeas, requires a growing percentage of diesel to be comprised of biodiesel and gasoline of ethanol.
The bill was passed to reduce the state’s dependency on oil, improve the health of Washingtonians and to spur on Washington’s own biofuel production industry.
It began with an ethanol requirement of 2 percent, gradually increasing to an ethanol presence of 10 percent. It was intended to go into effect July 1, 2006, however, it was delayed a few years to allow the biofuel industry to amp up production so it could meet the increased percentage required for fuel.
Several stations throughout Kitsap have already made the switch to 10 percent or did so in mid-2008. Others are still waiting to switch.
Regardless any government fuel mandate, be it driven to help the people, comes at a direct cost to the station owner.
“Anytime there’s new government regulations the gas station owner is responsible for the cost,” said Streible’s Deli-Mart owner Marci Morgensen. “It probably cost us more than $1,000.”
And it was a cost that didn’t get passed to the consumer.
Morgensen explained the fuel business is too competitive to raise the prices to accommodate for any additional expenses.
“That’s the cost of doing business,” she said. “I understand there needs to be regulations but sometimes it’s a little overkill.”
Aside from added expense to the owners, others question the efficacy of ethanol as an alternative fuel source.
Christine, who didn’t provide her last name, works at Kountry Korner in Kingston, which has yet to make the 10 percent switch.
She said several of their customers like to make sure their gas doesn’t have ethanol in it, saying they don’t like the way it makes a car run.
“They tell me they run bad with ethanol,” she said. “It’s been a long-time thing.”
Some research shows cars running with ethanol get fewer miles per gallon.
Although there’s numerous mixed reviews about the way ethanol makes a car run or if it decreases mileage one thing isn’t debatable and that’s how much energy it costs just to make ethanol, and the U.S., let alone Washington, can’t produce enough biofuels or ethanol to replace the use of oil.
A 2006 University of Minnesota study found that converting every kernel of corn in the U.S. into ethanol would offset only about 12 percent of U.S. gasoline usage. In 2005, about 14.3 percent of the U.S. corn harvest was converted into ethanol, yielding the equivalent of about 1.7 percent of U.S. gasoline usage.
Ethanol doesn’t fare much better from an environmental perspective, as growing the corn to make the ethanol takes a great deal of fossil fuel. It’s estimated it takes two-thirds of a gallon of oil to make one gallon of ethanol.