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Isn't it illegal for stations to sell non-ethanol fuel?

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 02:46 PM

Q: Isn't it illegal for gas stations in Florida to sell anything other than 10-percent ethanol fuel, except for boats, motorcycles, small engines (lawn equipment) and "classic" vehicles.

- Steve, Tampa

A: Yes, you're correct. A Florida law originally passed several years ago went into effect on Dec. 31, 2010 on the topic.

That law now requires all gasoline sold or offered for sale to be blended with 9- to 10-percent ethanol, except when sold for some special use, said Matthew Curran, chief of petroleum inspection with Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Among those special uses: Fuel for aircraft, boats, collector/classic vehicles with a state tag, off-road vehicles, motorcycles and small engines, i.e. lawn equipment.

Gas stations that do sell an ethanol-free blend will often label it as "Recreational Fuel." Technically, the state polices this practice, and in theory there are fines for stations that violate rules about which customers can buy that ethanol-free blend for which purposes.

There's a lot of interest lately in ethanol-free gasoline for a number of reasons. Federal policy now encourages ethanol production as one method of reducing the nation's reliance on foreign oil imports.

The vast majority of ethanol is produced from corn, and with rising food prices, some analysts note that upwards of 40 percent or more of the U.S. corn production is now diverted from the food supply and devoted to ethanol production.

Boaters have long complained that fuel with ethanol gums up engines and fuel lines. And chemically, ethanol contains less energy than non-ethanol-blended fuel. So a car would have better mileage on gas without ethanol.

Several gas stations in Tampa Bay sell ethanol-free gasoline, typically near marinas to serve customers bringing their boats or jet skis for a day on the water.

That ethanol-free fuel can cost a premium. While the price of a gallon of regular now is about $3.80, some stations are selling ethanol-free blends for between $3.89 and $4.25 per gallon.

- Richard Mullins

Submit your question here or visit our Gas Prices page and retail writer Richard Mullins will get you the answer.

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