CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Only one station in West Virginia sells a controversial type of higher-ethanol gasoline, but some state officials are still worried about what might happen if the fuel becomes more prevalent.
In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of E15, a mixture of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gas. A lower ethanol mixture, E-10, which is 10 percent ethanol, is already sold at most gas stations in West Virginia.
The EPA says that any vehicle built in 2001 or later can run on E15, but several automakers have disputed that. The automakers, including Chrysler, Toyota, Ford, Honda and Hyundai, say using E15 could damage fuel lines and void vehicle owners' warranties.
The American Automobile Association came out last week with similar concerns about E15.
Renewable fuels supporters say the fuel blend reduces greenhouse gas emissions and that it will decrease the United States' dependence on foreign oil. They say the danger to fuel lines is overstated, and with only a small number of stations nationwide selling the fuel, there's time to educate drivers.
Only one West Virginia gas station --located in the Clarksburg area -- sells E15 gas, said Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association. That gas station got new equipment that was built for E15 gas, she said.
Without the right gas pumps, E15 gas can damage gas station equipment, Vineyard said. It can also void warranties on that equipment, she said.
Gary Howell, a Republican member of the state House of Delegates, introduced a resolution in the House earlier this year calling on federal authorities to stop the implementation of E15 gasoline until more can be known about its effect on engines.
The resolution didn't go anywhere, but Howell, owner of a mail-order auto parts business in Mineral County, plans to try again next year.
The EPA recommends the use of E15 only in flexible-fuel vehicles and those built in 2001 or later. Howell said that would rule out almost half of privately owned vehicles in West Virginia.
"Forty-five percent of the vehicles are older than 2001," Howell said. "They can't use E15, period."