Pearson Fuels of San Diego has been given $1.35 million from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to install 19 E85 fuel pumps in fuel stations from San Diego to South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

The fuel company says the pumps that dispense the blend of ethanol and gasoline will displace approximately 2,754,218 gallons of regular gasoline per year.

“There are hundreds of thousands of flexible fuel vehicle owners in California who have been burning imported oil in their vehicles for years while a domestically produced, renewable and cleaner burning fuel is available,” said Mike Lewis, Pearson Fuels General Manager.

The problem, said Lewis, is that not enough retail fuel stations are dispensing E85. In a release he said less than 45 E85 stations are in California.

“The CEC’s funding, matched with our own and that of the retail fuel station owners will go a long way towards addressing that shortage,” stated Lewis.

Ethanol blends: not everyone’s favorite go-juice

While state governments as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continue to advance the use of ethanol-blended fuels, opponents say that even in much lower percentage blends, the fuel burns less efficiently. And in some older model-year cars and trucks, as well as motorcycles, ethanol blends may cause damage to vehicle components over the long term.

In October 2010, the EPA approved the use of E15 in model year 2007 and newer light-duty vehicles (cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles). Then, in January 2011, the EPA added model year 2001-06 light-duty vehicles to the approved list.

Late last year the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), a member-supported advocacy group, reported that it was successful in lobbying the EPA to alter a requirement that consumers buy at least four gallons of gasoline from certain gas pumps after the new E15 (up to 15 percent ethanol by volume) ethanol-gasoline blend is introduced into the market.

The problem was, said the AMA, that unlike an automobile or SUV that has a large fuel tank, the residual fuel left in a fueling hose could be detrimental to the performance of motorcycle or ATV engines due to the small size of their fuel tanks and the higher concentration of ethanol that would, therefore, be present in the fuel.

“In addition, the use of E15 will lower fuel efficiency and possibly cause premature engine failure,” said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations, in a letter to the EPA in June 2012.

“Use of E15 fuel voids many manufacturer warranties. In off-road engines, the effects can even be dangerous for users,” he said.

Last month, in response to ongoing AMA concerns, the EPA indicated to the AMA that it would no longer require a minimum purchase of four gallons. Instead, the EPA will now likely require a label on blender pumps that dispense E10 and E15 through the same hose that state the pump is solely for passenger cars and trucks.

In addition, the EPA indicated it would require stations that sell E15 to also have a pump with a dedicated E10 hose for use by motorcycles and other vehicles the EPA hasn’t approved for E15 use.

Funding to Pearson Fuels for the 19 E85 stations was made available through CEC’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program.