Friday, February 23, 2018
Business

Beware of bad gasoline choices

Let the driver beware: Not all gasoline is created equal. As the summer vacation driving season begins, paying attention at the pump can add miles per gallon to your fuel economy, and protect your engine.

Differences in octane level and the amount of ethanol added to gasoline can have a dramatic impact on fuel economy and emissions. In a worst-case scenario, using bad gas could even void the manufacturer's warranty.

The key risks:

• Lower-than-expected octane.

• Higher mixes of ethanol.

Octane

Low-octane fuel — rated 85 or 86 as opposed to the 87 for regular gasoline — is common in the Rocky Mountain states, said General Motors fuel specialist Bill Studzinski. The practice goes back to the days of carbureted engines, when lower octane helped vehicles run smoothly at altitude. The electronic engine controls that have replaced carburetors make the lower octane unnecessary and potentially harmful.

"I felt like a fool," said Rodney Gutzler of Sioux Falls, S.D., former owner of a 2012 Scion iQ. "Here I was in a little bitty car that was supposed to get 36 mpg in the city, and I was getting 25."

The 85 octane gas spread from the mountains of western South Dakota into the eastern plains last year, said David Montgomery, a reporter for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. The state legislature has since passed a law restricting sales to the west and requiring a warning label on pumps: "This octane level may not meet minimum manufacturer specifications. Consult your owner's manual before fueling."

Automakers would prefer a total ban on 85 and 86 octane gasoline. Less than 2 percent of the vehicles in the United States have carburetors, according to GM. The other 98 percent-plus have computer controls that adjust for altitude and require manufacturers'-spec gasoline to meet emissions, fuel economy and performance standards.

"We do not endorse the use of 85 octane or lower," Studzinski said.

A lawsuit pending in South Dakota seeks damages for drivers who were "knowingly and fraudulently charged inflated prices" for 85 octane gas, which costs less at the pump than 87, Montgomery said.

"My Scion iQ clearly stated that no gasoline lower than 87 octane should be used because it could damage the engine," Gutzler said. "The pumps where I got 85 octane weren't labeled. Who knew what we were buying?"

Ethanol

The other potential problem is less geographically widespread, but unlike 85-octane gas, which seems to be waning, higher ethanol mixtures are likely to become more common to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost use of renewable fuels.

Virtually all gasoline sold in the United States has 10 percent ethanol. Vehicles are engineered to run easily on it. But a new 15 percent blend, called E15, could be problematic. Only a handful of service stations sell E15 now.

The EPA says E15 works fine with the emissions systems of vehicles dating to the 2001 model year, but automakers didn't certify other systems for it that long ago. GM, for instance, only approves E15 for 2012 and later model years. The mixed signals from EPA and automakers' recommendations create room for user error.

"A recent AAA survey finds a strong likelihood of customer confusion, and the potential for voided warranties due to E15," said Nancy Cain, spokesperson for AAA Michigan. "We want more education so customers know what they're buying and what their vehicles need."

Comments
Administrator Haley Loeun fired from CareerSource jobs centers

Administrator Haley Loeun fired from CareerSource jobs centers

Haley Loeun, a top aide to the embattled leader of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards, was fired Thursday from her $130,000-a-year position as business services director.Loeun came under criticism after the Tampa Bay Times reported that employ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands beats Wall Street forecasts

Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands beats Wall Street forecasts

TAMPA — Outback Steakhouse has been pressured to improve for awhile, but the restaurant chain isn’t cooked yet. In fact, a boost in Outback sales led its Tampa-based parent company to beat Wall Street expectations in its fourth quarter.Bloomin’ Brand...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Tampa Bay area’s population projected to grow to 3.1 million this year

Tampa Bay area’s population projected to grow to 3.1 million this year

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay area’s population, already the largest of any metropolitan area in the state, is projected to grow from 3 million last year to 3.1 million this year, and to 3.3 million over the next five years.That growth is expected to bring c...
Published: 02/22/18
Work finally starts on downtown St. Petersburg’s newest hotel

Work finally starts on downtown St. Petersburg’s newest hotel

ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly a decade after it was first proposed, a new boutique hotel in downtown St. Petersburg is finally under construction.Workers are preparing the foundation of the Galaxy, an 11-story, 92-room hotel at Third Avenue N and First Str...
Published: 02/22/18
Note to readers: About those annoying popups on your phones

Note to readers: About those annoying popups on your phones

Dear readers, I hope that you are able to see this and that a popup saying you’ve won a gift card hasn’t taken over your phone. We have heard from many of you that these popups are preventing you from reading our news coverage.We hate them as much as...
Published: 02/22/18
Saving trees a passion for some St. Petersburg neighborhood leaders

Saving trees a passion for some St. Petersburg neighborhood leaders

ST. PETERSBURGBeth Connor, a longtime neighborhood environmental advocate, is alarmed at what she views as the destruction of the city’s trees in the name of development.She points to at least three properties that have been scraped of trees in recen...
Published: 02/22/18
This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

FIELD OF GREEN: COLLARD FESTOn Saturday you can devote your whole day to the beauty of collard greens. Well, that’s the jumping off point. Collards are the "central ingredient" at the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival at St. Petersburg’s Historic Deuc...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18
CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CLEARWATER — The heads of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards will hold emergency meetings in the coming days to consider firing president and CEO Edward Peachey. Jack Geller, board chairman of CareerSource Pinellas, and Dick Peck, chair...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18
Hillsborough commissioners ask CareerSource chief to step down or be fired

Hillsborough commissioners ask CareerSource chief to step down or be fired

TAMPA –– Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to ask embattled jobs center leader Ed Peachey to either resign or face termination over concerns the agency inflated job placement numbers with the state. Chairwoman Sandy Murman said commis...
Published: 02/21/18
St. Pete's World Liquors sign will live on at new home

St. Pete's World Liquors sign will live on at new home

A local landmark for a half century isn't coming down for good.
Published: 02/21/18