A new type of fuel has been brought to Iowa, but it can’t be sold at the pump. At least, not right away.
Known as sub-octane, or v-grade fuel, the gasoline rates at 84 octane. That’s key, because the state of Iowa doesn’t allow anything below 87 octane to be sold.
"So in Iowa you have to take that gas and make it a cocktail,” said Jim Lind, of Jim Lind’s Service in Waterloo. “And mix it up to get it up to the current standard, and the quick, easy way to do that is to put ethanol in it," he said.
Besides ethanol, to bring the gas up to the state minimum, it can also be mixed with stronger 91 octane gasoline. For the manufacturers, pumping lower octane gas through the pipeline to the Midwest is more convenient, since the lower-grade fuel is easier to mix. But mixing presents other problems: using higher grade 91 to raise the sub-octane increases demand for premium 91, so the price could spike, or create higher-end fuel shortages. Mixing ethanol with the v-grade gas addresses this, but that has issues too.
"While the ethanol is good for the economy and for the farmers, you don't get as good of gas mileage as you get on 87 without ethanol in it,” said Dewitt Jones, who was filling up his car at Lind’s on Monday. “I think it's going to be interesting to see where we're going with all that."
Jones also said that he thinks this change will spike prices for boat fuel, which he said is already high enough.
Meanwhile, Lind says that he’s concerned that blending more ethanol into fuel just to raise it to the state minimum could lead to an increase of lower quality fuel on the market.
"Well the lesser grade of fuel, the less efficient, the less effective that it is,” Lind said.
Lind also noted that since his business is a name-brand station, they won’t get these blended fuels. He said to look for sub-octane fuels at stations that don’t associate with a specific fuel brand.
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