The new year will bring a significant change for motorists through Oregon, even though many of them may not even realize it at first.
Starting Jan. 15, drivers in nine counties in northwest Oregon will start buying a blended fuel that is 10 percent ethanol. The requirements will take effect in Jackson County starting April 15.
The rest of the state will join them over the next nine months, in a phased-in implementation of the state's new renewable fuel standards.
Gas station owners and the inspectors who will ensure compliance, are getting ready for the change, and hoping that motorists don't experience any problems with their vehicles.
Under a law passed this year by the legislature, the renewable fuel standard for ethanol kicks in when Oregon's ethanol production has the capacity to reach 40 million gallons a year.
The state achieved that goal this summer when Pacific Ethanol began producing at the Port of Morrow.
April 15, Linn, Lane, Benton, Lincoln, Douglas, Coos, Josephine, and Curry counties will join the effort, along with Jackson County. Finally, by Sept. 16, all counties east of the Cascades will complete the full statewide implementation.
"The consumer should see minimal difference in mileage or the performance of their vehicle with the new fuel standard," said Russ Wyckoff, administrator of the Oregon Department of Agriculture's Measurement Standards Division. Assuming the storage tanks at
Older vehicles that already may have some water contamination in their tanks may be affected by the change, he said. And motorists may need to change a fuel filter soon after the ethanol-blended product is put into the tank for the first time.
As of Sept. 16, the only gasoline to be sold in Oregon without the ethanol requirement is fuel used exclusively for aircraft, Wyckoff said.
Advocates of blending gasoline with ethanol say it helps the environment, reduces dependency on foreign oil and, hopefully, will drop the price of motor fuel.
Another large-scale ethanol plant is planned at Clatskanie, Wyckoff said. Between the two plants, the majority of ethanol needed to supply the state eventually could come from local production. Other ethanol plants are on the drawing board at the Port of Morrow and in Stanfield.
Oregon to phase in ethanol