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The push for E15

Press Photo by Beth Wischmeyer Andy Helgeson, service manager for Northwest Tire in Dickinson, works on changing the oil in a truck, Saturday.

North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan and Gov. John Hoeven both say they are pushing the Environmental Protection Agency on a decision to allow more ethanol in gasoline blends, but the EPA is saying it may be August before a decision is made.

Dorgan said recently he is concerned about the delay of eight months waiting for the EPA to make a decision on certifying E15, which would allow a 15 percent ethanol blend in gasoline.

Currently, gasoline blends can contain no more than 10 percent ethanol.

"We've been using E10 for 20 years now and we need to move to higher blends if we are to grow our renewable fuels industry and move our country away from dependence on foreign oil," Dorgan said. "EPA needs to get a move on with this decision, and I'm going to keep pushing them to get to a positive conclusion."

Mike Rivinius, manager of Northwest Tire of Dickinson, said in his opinion, if the change is implemented, it shouldn't wreak havoc on vehicles.

"My opinion on it is it's not going to hurt a thing," Rivinius said. "Ethanol, you do lose a little bit of your mileage with it. The octane of the gas would probably have to improve a little bit."

Rivinius said higher ethanol blends can't just be run on any type of vehicle.

"It just burns different," Rivinius. "(With) 15, I don't know. I guess I kind of doubt you would notice a difference, but I don't know, it's one of those deals where you find effects after the fact."

Dorgan has supported a request from Growth Energy, a group that supports renewable fuels, to allow gasoline blends that contain 15 percent ethanol, often referred to as E15, to be sold at gas pumps around the nation.

Dorgan, who is chairman of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, has allocated $30 million in the last two appropriations bills to test the affects of E15 on legacy vehicles.

The preliminary research has found that E15 is safe to use in vehicles with conventional fuel-combustion engines, according to a Dorgan press release.

The EPA now says that the preliminary tests are positive for going to an E15 standard, but the decision will have to wait until next August. "That's frustrating," Dorgan said. "But it sounds like this will get done -- hopefully sooner than that timeline."

Hoeven made the original request for an E15 waiver in February to President Barack Obama, and subsequently spoke with EPA officials, asking to expedite the approval process.

"While it appears the agency is leaning toward a positive conclusion, they need to move the process forward and reduce some of the complexity implied in their announcement," Hoeven said in a press release. "We are concerned that the waiver may only apply to newer cars, which would create unnecessary confusion at the pump for consumers."

Paul Wosepka, owner of Wosepka Auto Services in Dickinson, said he doesn't know how E15 would affect vehicles.

"I think we've come a long ways on these vehicles being more tolerant for ethanol," Wosepka said.