Colorado Springs is such a beautiful, awe-inspiring place, and many people are lucky to call it home. Its pristine blue skies, crisp sunshine, breathtaking views and surrounding wilderness make this place feel almost utopian, somehow insulated from the ravages of pollution and global warming.
But don’t be fooled by the clear blue skies: The lack of constant haze might lull us into a false sense of security. While COS does rank No. 22 for cities with the cleanest air for annual particulate pollution in the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air Report, smog is a problem. The area’s ozone levels teeter on the edge of violating the federal Clean Air Act, which indicates the air quality is impacting the health of residents. If this year’s ozone levels push us over that edge, it might also trigger new regulations that are necessary to restore the air quality to healthier levels, but can be burdensome to businesses and economic growth in the meantime.
The Colorado Springs community is at risk of harm from unclean air, but some residents face higher risks like the 176,000 children in the area and 70,000 people with low incomes. Air pollution especially threatens the 12,600 kids and 50,800 adults with asthma, nearly 23,000 residents with COPD, and about 30,000 people with cardiovascular disease. It must also be noted that these kinds of health conditions are more likely to occur in people of color.
In addition, the constant barrage of microscopic particles emitted from cars, semitrucks and industrial facilities damage our lungs and weaken our body’s defenses. This makes us and our children more susceptible to colds, the flu, bronchitis, pneumonia — and even COVID-19, with health experts equating breathing polluted air with “putting gasoline on a fire” when it comes to contracting COVID-19.
Air pollution and global warming might feel like overwhelming issues, and you might think as an individual there’s not much you can do. But there are simple things many of us can do. A very easy one can be taken at your next fuel stop; look for the blue hose and fill your car’s tank with cleaner-burning, lower-emission E15/eblend gasoline, which is often labeled as an 86 octane midgrade.
Made with a blend of 15% ethanol — slightly higher than the 10% blend you’re using —E15/eblend use in passenger cars and light duty trucks reduces harmful air toxins as well as greenhouse gases. Switching to E15/eblend has potential to improve the health, well-being and longevity of our community, our children and even future generations. It’s a small, simple and effective change that everyone can make. And, if you happen to drive a flex-fuel vehicle designed to run on either gasoline or ethanol blends as high as 85%, than you have yet another clean fuel choice with E85 found at many of the same stations that offer E15/eblend.
You might be wondering, “can my car use E15/eblend?” Most likely, yes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the use of E15/eblend in gasoline passenger cars, SUVs and trucks made since model year 2001. That’s almost all of the gasoline vehicles on the road. In fact, over 90% of 2019 model year cars recommended or approved E15/eblend use in their owners’ manuals. Go ahead, pull yours out of the glove box — I’ll bet your car is one of them!
If anything, E15/eblend migh be better for your engine because it can burn cleaner, which means less buildup of gunk that can rob engine performance. Add E15/eblend to your car today — it will work absolutely fine with the gas that’s in your tank.
As a bonus, higher ethanol blends are typically less expensive than conventional gasoline, which means your family can save money while helping the planet and protecting the air we breathe. And, it’s widely available. Colorado Springs has the largest concentration of E15/eblend filling stations in the state.
I know that protecting your family’s health and your children’s future is your number one priority. And, with personal and public safety top of mind for all of us right now, there’s never been a better time to do something small that can make a big impact.
At your next fillup, look for the blue hose and make the cleaner choice: E15/eblend. For more information, and to find an E15/eblend station near you, check out the interactive map at LookfortheBlueHose.com. Let’s work together to keep the COS air clean for everyone today and future generations.
Jon Hunter is the acting coordinator for Southern Colorado Clean Cities Coalition, which works to promote the use of cleaner fuels and improve the efficiency of transportation.