E85 Problems

By: Narina Crain
By: Narina Crain

Roger Birkholz wants to support farmers who live near Forreston. He installed an E85 tank at his new gas station that will provide alternative fuel made from corn. But Birkholz can't sell any E85... Because there aren't any pumps made for ethanol based fuel that are approved by Underwriters Laboratories.

"We're still waiting for that dispenser to be put in. We didn't want one put in and with the parts being changed and stuff we wanted to wait for the one that's UL approved and we're still waiting," Birkholz said.

Most gas stations in Illinois are required by law to have a UL seal of approval. But now the product safety group is suspending its certification for all E85 gas pumps. That means many E85 pumps are technically violating a fire code.

"Local authorities having jurisdiction do rely on the UL mark and understand we have a lot of expertise in a lot of different areas," said John Drengenberg, UL’s manager of consumer affairs.

A spokesman for UL says E85 may need to be pumped out of different components than regular gasoline. That's because E85 is much more corrosive than normal fuel.

"We are an independent not for profit and we test for safety and as soon as we learned of the corrosive aspects of the E85 and other
alternative fuels we suspended the authorization," Drengenberg said.

Meanwhile Birkholz has to wait. And while he waits, so do ethanol plants, and several corn farmers in northern Illinois.


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