Educating one motorist at a time

Jason Stauffer, of Manson, said he was humbled on Jan. 14, when he was handed a plaque from Bill Northey, Iowa’s secretary of agriculture, as the recipient of the 2014 Secretary’s Ethanol Marketing Award.

Stauffer is the retail fuels manager for STAR Energy, a division of GROWMARK Inc.

“I don’t feel like I deserved the award,” Stauffer said, “but it was an honor and humbling to be recognized for doing the right thing.”

Stauffer said STAR Energy goes the extra mile in offering five ethanol blends to the motoring public, educating them about the higher blend’s benefits one motorist at a time.

STAR Energy’s Fort Dodge location began offering E15 as a conventional fuel to customers in December 2013. It installed a blender pump for E20, E30 and E85 options for flex fuel vehicles two years ago.

Stauffer, Northey said, has been instrumental in the establishment and promotion of this site and making additional renewable fuels available to customers.

“We aggressively market ethanol with an educational approach,” Stauffer said.

STAR Energy, with 23 Iowa locations, has installed ethanol blender pumps in Fort Dodge, Storm Lake and Spencer.

The company’s addition of E15 was important he said, due to the September 2013 change to V-grade gasoline.

“Most people think gas is gas,” Stauffer said. “But the gas you buy today, is not the gas you bought last summer.”

Each year, the RFS requires that more and more corn ethanol be mixed with gasoline, according to the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa.

In Iowa, the new base gasoline stock is classified as 84 octane. It will provide a base to allow more ethanol to be mixed with gasoline.

Because Iowa requires a minimum of 87 octane gasoline be sold, consumers get 87 octane as a mixture of 10 percent ethanol with 84 octane gas, or can get an 89 octane as a mixture of premium 91 octane and 84 octane gasoline, without ethanol.

Stauffer said almost instantly customers, who used the higher octane gas, either saw a drop in their gas mileage with 87 octane, or a 30-cent hike in the price if using the 89 octane. The higher price is due to the higher cost of mixing 83 octane with premium, 91 octane, gas.

“The option to V-grade gas,” Stauffer said, “is E15. E15, which is blended with 87 octane gas to get 89 octane.”

He said that’s the message he’s been telling to customers with passenger vehicles rated to handle the higher ethanol blend.

“Now if you go and ask anyone who is pumping E15,” Stauffer said, “95 percent say they are happy with it because they have their gas mileage back.”

According to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, E15 has a negligible effect on fuel economy.

Studies by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have shown that with all other things being equal, ethanol’s impact on fuel economy would be equal to the loss of energy density.

This translates into a loss of less than 2 percent for E15 when compared to other gasoline blends, the IRFA said. For a vehicle getting 30 miles per gallon this would equate to a drop to around 29.4 mpg or about the loss of miles to the gallon when vehicle tires are improperly inflated.

“Our consumers are not required to purchase E15 in Fort Dodge,” Stauffer said, “and E10 will remain available at this location.

“It is simply another choice at the pump between 87 or 89 octane, and nothing more.”

He said E-15 provides cleaner engines, reduces knock, increases overall performance and has better winterizing capabilities.

Avoiding line wash

All companies providing E15 and higher ethanol blends, must have a misfueling mitigation protocol. This is to prevent a customer who wants no ethanol in the gas tank become the victim of line-wash, which is getting any residual ethanol in the hose into the tank.

To avoid this problem, Stauffer said STAR Energy has installed a dedicated pump and hose that never gets a drop of ethanol blended gasoline.

It’s just another choice offered to customers, he said.

“No one likes mandates,” Stauffer said, “so we give people all the options.”

A higher standard

Stauffer said ethanol providers are held to a higher standard in Iowa than in other states.

“If you have a speck of ethanol in your gasoline you have to have the green and blue ethanol sticker,” he said.

Pumps with E15 and E85 must also carry an orange and black sticker. Failure to have those stickers on the pumps is an automatic fine.

“Were having problems with the stickers in this cold weather,” Stauffer said. “They start to peel off and then the high winds blow them away.

“If we were inspected after a sticker blows off, it’s a fine. It doesn’t matter why the sticker isn’t there.”

He said other states give stations an option to post a sticker, but not Iowa.

“It’s well monitored here,” Stauffer said.