The proportion of ethanol in fuel sold in the UK is about to be doubled, Ethanol, produced by fermenting agricultural crops such as maize, has been added to the petrol you buy from the beginning of 2011, in an attempt to force us all to be "greener". Unfortunately, ethanol causes serious problems to many vehicles, and other petrol-engined equipment, such as lawnmowers.
There is no labelling on the pumps announcing this. Indeed, the replies I have obtained from the various oil companies indicate that they can not state with any certainty which of their grades of fuel may or may not have ethanol added.
Doubling the proportion of ethanol, which is due to take place from 2013, is likely to cause serious problems with any vehicle built before 2006, according to a report produced by technology organisation QinetiQ. The EU, however, are of the opinion that there will be no vehicles anywhere in Europe which do not have a modern fuel injection system and fuel storage and delivery system compatible with ethanol. If your fuel system has components made of any metal other than stainless steel, they are likely to need replacement because the ethanol will eat them away.
"But it won't affect many vehicles" you may think. Qinetiq reckon 4.5 million cars in the UK are incompatible with the new fuel, and can not be converted to use it.
"But I'll still be able to get ethanol-free fuel". You should be so lucky. Remember that the fuel companies can't tell you where to find ethanol-free fuel even now.
"It's just enabling legislation. Nothing will happen for ages yet" - the new rules start on January 1st 2013. The same "enabling legislation" already leaves us no chance of finding suitable fuel. The fuel companies have been told to use bioethanol or face penalties. They would not do this just out of their concern for the planet. Bioethanol is more expensive for them to source than is petrol.