Lawrence just became the epicenter of the ethanol debate

The ethanol debate plays out over pumps in Lawrence.

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This is one energy debate that will play out over the pump.
  • Zarco 66
  • This is one energy debate that will play out over the pump.
In the comings weeks, you're going to hear a lot about e15 — a 15 percent ethanol blend of gasoline that was approved for use in some vehicles (light duty vehicles manufactured after 2001) by the Environmental Protection Agency back in 2010. Critics argue that the higher concentration of ethanol could damage automobile engines, while producers contend that cost savings might help mitigate higher prices at the pump and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. As that debate plays out in digital and print media, the very first place in the country to stock this controversial fuel is Zarco 66, a filling station in Lawrence, Kansas.

The ethanol industry is in the midst of great upheaval. Rising corn prices and slowed consumer demand — Americans are driving less, and when they do drive, they get behind the wheel of more fuel efficient cars — has led ethanol plants to be running well below their full production capacity.

"We are putting a lot of faith in E15," Walter Wendland, CEO of two ethanol plants in northern Iowa, told the Wall Street Journal. "We have a market problem out there for our production."

But that faith isn't shared. The gas and auto industry have been building stations and cars to comply with the federal mandate that capped ethanol percentages at 10 percent before it was raised two years ago. As a result, gasoline companies and auto manufacturers have expressed skepticism over whether e15 is compatible with the cars that are on the road right now.

And so like slot jockeys in states across the union, Kansas drivers will be the ones to step up, pull the lever and see what happens.
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