We're used to some things being the same all across our fruited plain. We want the same McDonald's hamburgers in Idaho as in Tennessee. We're so used to uniformity so we sometimes assume the rules for things like gasoline are the same no matter where in the US we are.
As you may guess, that's not quite true when you're talking about the availability of ethanol-free gas. That's because difference states have different rules on how and where it's available. It's not the same in every state. Our thanks to reliable sources like www.e0pc.com for gathering the factual information referenced.
Ethanol Free Gas Is Easier To Find In Some States
If you live in Arkansas, it's much easier to get around the ethanol problem by filling up with good old fashioned ethanol-free gas than it is in other states like Oregon. That's because Arkansas has different rules than Oregon does.
The first difference is that not every state has a "mandatory ethanol blending" law. Currently there are only six states that DO have a mandatory ethanol law like this: Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon and Washington state. This kind of mandatory blending law means that virtually all of the gasoline available in those states will have ethanol in it, with only a very few exceptions.
But the exact rules differ even within these states:
Minnesota ethanol is exempt from gas used in aircraft, watercraft, motor sport racing, collector vehicles and off road use, motorcycles, 2 cycle and small engines, etc. The law does not guarantee the availability of unblended gasoline, which must be premium unleaded and it only allows retail dealers to supply it if they follow very strict guidelines.
Florida has similar exemptions like aircraft and 2-cycle engines as Minnesota does. But their exemptions from mandatory ethanol exemption do not specify a grade of gasoline nor does it specify how the unblended gasoline is to be made available. One good rule in the Florida law is in Section 104 where terminals are exempted from having to blend ethanol if it becomes more expensive than gasoline, which is highly likely.
Missouri exempts all of the standard constituents that need it and it even has a blanket exemption for premium unleaded. But they don't require ethanol to be labeled at the pump, so you don't really know if it's in the fuel you're getting or not.
Oregon used to be really really strict with no exemptions for any kind of gas used anywhere. But they realized the problems that were cropping up and passed emergency exemptions in 2008 and later.
The law in Washington is rather quirky and is much different than any other mandatory ethanol law. It isn't really a mandatory E10 law. It requires that for all of the gasoline sold in the state of Washington, 2% of it must be ethanol. Now that could mean that all of the gasoline be E2 or that 20% of all the gasoline be E10. There are some other very strange provisions for increasing the amount of ethanol in the gasoline supply, but that has been superseded by the federal RFS mandate, EISA 2007, which has taken over and the entire state is being taken E10 along with Oregon, Montana and Idaho by the local gasoline refiners. The only exemption in this law is for aircraft use. However there is no guarantee in statute that unblended premium unleaded be made available. And there's no exemption for boats and watercraft, either.
Hawaii is another state that started with the grand idea to make everyone use ethanol, requiring at least 85% of all the gasoline on all the islands contain at least 10% ethanol. They quickly backtracked substantially, at first exempting just the small islands of Molokai and Lanai before backtracking again and adopting the more standard exemptions of marine and other areas.
What about the other states?
With the new Federal rules, you can bank that more and more states will officially become mandatory ethanol states. And remember, a state doesn't have to be a "mandatory" state to have ethanol present in most of its gasoline anyway. For example, California does not have a mandatory ethanol blending law, but it should because ethanol is already in all of the gasoline in the state. The California Air Resources Board at one time in the past had an agreement with the EPA to blend ethanol into all of the gasoline in California at the 5.7% level. That level was been changed by a California law that allowed the distributors to go to E10 by 2010 and so you have lots of ethanol gas in California despite not technically being "mandated".
The ethanol outlook
Inevitable steps taken by the federal government towards 15% ethanol content should move more and more states toward becoming mandatory ethanol states. This despite the complaints of consumers over lower gas mileage and 2-cycle engine damage. Bell Performance will continue to offer cost-effective solutions for these consumers forced to use ethanol.
This post was published on August 28, 2012 and was updated on April 20, 2017.