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Gasoline with 15 percent ethanol may violate vehicle warranties

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The sale of gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol may have been approved before enough consumer education was done, but West Virginians don't have to worry.

Retailers are not preparing to offer E15 in the state, as far as Oil Marketers and Grocers Association President Janet Vineyard knows.

And if they did, Vineyard said, the pumps would be well marked.

Almost all of what we still call "gasoline" in this country actually is E10: a blend of up to 10 percent ethanol, made primarily of corn.

Sales of E15 got a very small start last year in corn country: a few stations in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.

But in November, AAA called on regulators to suspend sales.

"A recent survey by AAA finds a strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage as a result of the Environmental Protection Agency's recent approval of E15 gasoline," the automotive trade group wrote in a media release.

"Unsuspecting consumers using E15 could end up with engine problems that might not be covered by their vehicles' warranties," the release read.

In December, the AAA said 15 automakers had issued statements saying E15 may void warranties. Only about 12 million of the more than 240 million light-duty vehicles on U.S. roads are approved for E15, the group said: flex-fuel models, 2001 and newer Porsches, 2012 and newer GM vehicles and 2013 Fords.

The EPA acknowledged in a response that consumer education is needed but said required labeling and other education efforts are sufficient. The ethanol industry, which had lobbied heavily for the fuel, pointed out that E15 is the most aggressively and comprehensively tested fuel in EPA's history.

Selling E15 is a major choice for a retailer, Vineyard said, noting beyond the signage requirements that it's not acceptable for all gasoline station equipment.

"People are very leery of it," she said.