That's an order, not an invitation. After years of talk, it's action time. Government mandates are forcing fuel manufacturers to blend ethanol into products they sell at retail gas pumps. Some consumers welcome the move. Others question the safety and value of ethanol blends. Here's how The Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (the national biofuels lobby group) responds to three of the most common questions:
Q: Can ethanol blends be used in any vehicle?A: In parts of Canada gasoline is already blended with 10% ethanol (the fuel is known as E10) and most of today's cars and trucks run fine on that. Ethanol-gasoline blends are also safe to use in most boat, motorcycle, and snowmobile engines. These fuels can even be burned in gas-powered tools like lawn mowers.
Find a gas station selling ethanol blends in your area
Q: Why should I use ethanol blends?A: Ethanol in gas absorbs moisture, which helps prevent frozen fuel lines in winter. That's a benefit in Canada! Because it's a solvent, ethanol also helps keep fuel system components, like injectors, clean.
Then there's greenhouse gas reduction. Ethanol contains no sulfur and is rich in oxygen, which results in more complete fuel combustion and fewer harmful tailpipe emissions. Less greenhouse gas, along with other substances that cause smog, acid rain and pollution in general, gets released into the air.
The Government of Canada estimates that if 35% of gasoline sold in Canada contained 10% ethanol, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 1.8 million tonnes per year–the equivalent of taking more than 400,000 vehicles off the road.
Q: Are higher ethanol blends possible?A: Yes. A blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, or E85, is available for use in specialized vehicles known as "flex fuel vehicles" (FFVs). The higher ethanol content requires an internal engine sensor that allows the fuel injection system to monitor ethanol content in the fuel being used, and adjust the system automatically (FFVs can also run on regular unleaded and E10 gasoline).
In Canada, E85 fuel is not widely available. Only UPI Energy sells it at two sites in Ontario: Chatham and Guelph. However, because many major automakers, including Ford, General Motors, Mazda and Chrysler have made FFVs, demand for and availability of E85 is expected to rise.