New, cheaper fuel attracts consumers - but mechanics have a warning

Fuel Concerns

(WVUE) - Some concerns have been raised over a new grade of gasoline due to the damage it could cause to some engines. But some love the cost of the fuel.

"Were getting better gas mileage with it," said Tim Rivers. "We're using company vehicles. We burn through that gas quick."

Rivers says he's been filling his company truck with E15 for the last three months or so. And he says he's getting about three miles more per gallon with it.

E15 is short for gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol. It was approved by the EPA in 2012. But it just recently showed up in the New Orleans area at the Race Trac on Jefferson Highway. This is the second time this week for Sid Stallings to fill up with E15.

"I didn't know exactly what the E15 was about and I researched it, Googled it," said Stallings, who drives for a living. "It gave me enough information to make a decision."

But mechanic Chuck Hamback says be careful.

"We're going from bad to worse," says Hamback, who owns Smiling Chuck's Auto Service in New Orleans. "Ethanol, number one, is bad. New Orleans is a drinking city, so I'll put it so everyone can understand it. Folks, they're watering down your whiskey. I have cars coming in with problems it never had before. You leave a car sitting too long and the fuel tank's gone, fuel pump's gone."

The EPA says E15 is perfectly safe for engines built after 2001 or for flex fuel vehicles. But the pumps don't say anything about when not to use E15.

On its company website, Race Trac says E15 can run cleaner and cooler. But popular mechanics say it could be especially dangerous for small engines, like lawnmowers and jet skis, especially if the fuel isn't used up right away and it separates.

"It's cheaper, cheaper. I ain't never had no problem with it," says Duane Williams who is buying the fuel for his tractor and leaf blowers.

Tuesday at Race Trac, the E15 was five cents a gallon cheaper than the 87 octane.

"It all adds up by the end of the year," said Stallings. "Put 70, 80,000 miles on a vehicle, it all adds up."

"They have to look at the big picture, it's not cheaper," says Hamback. "Once again, this is not pure gasoline. It's going to cause a problem, whether it's today, tomorrow, a week from now. It's going to cause you a problem."

The State Department of Agriculture and Forestry regulates gas pumps. They say E15 pumps are required to carry labels that say the fuel is only safe in vehicles made in 2001 or later and that it's not safe for boats or other gas-powered equipment. There were no labels on the gas pumps, Tuesday. FOX 8 reached out to Race Trac but calls were not returned.

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