Motorists in Nebraska and Iowa who are used to filling up with regular unleaded gasoline, take note: 87 octane fuel without ethanol will soon be phased out.
It will be replaced by an ethanol-blended 87 octane gas that will likely cost less at the pump.
Starting Sept. 16, refineries began delivering sub-octane unleaded gasoline with a level of 84. Local suppliers then blend the sub-octane gas with ethanol or premium to achieve an 87 octane rating.
The new low-grade fuel is showing up at Omaha-area pumps this week and should be fully in place by early October.
Rose White of AAA Nebraska said most consumers already use ethanol fuel blends and won't be affected by the change.
She noted that the use of gasoline with octane ratings lower than recommended in the owner's manual could lead to the problem of engine knock.
“For those who remain concerned about their older cars, boat motors or snowblowers, we recommend that you check your owner's manual first before using any new fuel blend,” White said. “They may want to use premium or premium-blended gas, and that should average about 20 cents more per gallon.”
White said consumers may notice a drop in gas prices, depending on the additive used to achieve the octane level they select. Prices will be less, she said, from producers who blend with ethanol instead of premium.
The change in gasoline formulation can be tracked to producers' desire to simplify the production process by eliminating regular unleaded gas. Refineries will be able to more easily supply gasoline to all areas of the country.
Another factor is the Renewable Fuel Standard that requires a mandatory minimum volume of biofuels in the national transportation fuel supply. The standard was established in 2005 as part of the Energy Policy Act.
The energy bill required that a minimum of 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel be used in the nation's gasoline supply starting in 2006, and that this minimum usage volume rise to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
“This fuel changeover went smoothly in other states,” said Ginger Willson, director of the Nebraska Energy Office. “States in the upper Midwest, including Nebraska and Iowa, are some of the last states changing to this grade of fuel.”
According to AAA, the average U.S. price of a gallon of gas Thursday was $3.43 for low grade, $3.62 for mid-grade, $3.79 for premium and $3.91 for diesel.
In Nebraska, the average price — starting with low grade and ending with premium — was $3.49, $3.43 and $3.71.
Omaha service stations reported the lowest prices in the state Thursday, according to AAA. A gallon of low grade cost $3.32 on average; mid-grade was $3.30; premium was $3.66; and diesel was $3.88.
Average prices for Iowa are slightly lower in part because of a price difference of about 5 cents in the fuel tax. Iowa stations reported an average per gallon price of $3.40 for low grade, $3.33 for mid-grade, $3.64 for premium and $3.85 for diesel.