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Consider switch to ethanol blend

Photos by Sarah McNaughton ethanol being pumped into car
FAVORITE FUEL: For vehicles that can run on flex fuels, a gasoline-ethanol blend can help them burn cleaner.
With its lower price and other benefits, ethanol could be a smart choice at the pump this summer.

With the Dakotas’ and the rest of the country seeing higher gas prices, it’s good to seize any chance to lower that cost. I’m on the road every weekend in the summer, visiting family, going camping or, of course, driving hundreds of miles to rodeos. The price of diesel is soaring as well, but for those of us who drive cars with gasoline, ethanol could be a help.

Of course, filling up with an ethanol blend is another way to support farmers. The North Dakota Ethanol Council says that ethanol plants in the state use 160 million to 180 million bushels of corn each year, with 80% of that coming from North Dakota farmers. The council says that the ethanol industry in North Dakota contributes $623 million each year to the state’s economy.

Is it safe for my car?

Many may think that ethanol is only for specific vehicles, and even call E85 a “race car fuel.” In reality, a blend of ethanol and gasoline can lower your costs and help your vehicle run better. Flex-fuel vehicles are designed to run on these fuels, as well as on regular gasoline.

I drive a newer-model Ford Escape, which can run on ethanol. The flex-fuel designation is displayed on the back of some cars, trucks and SUVs. But other vehicles include that information only in the owner’s manual. As much as I like using ethanol in my SUV, make sure to check your owner’s manual before using ethanol or any other type of fuel. 

Iowa corn shares that ethanol is not only safe for cars, but also often better for vehicles. Ethanol is environmentally friendly and provides a higher octane for cleaner engines. The most common options for ethanol is E85, made from 85% ethanol and 15% gas, or E15, made from 15% ethanol and 85% gas. You may also find E15 labeled as “Unleaded 88” at the pump. Some stations will also offer E30, which is 30% ethanol and 70% gas.

Price savings

Aside from the benefits discussed above, I’m always happy to use an ethanol blend for the price savings. The North Dakota Ethanol Council says ethanol can reduce gas prices by more than $1 a gallon — the equivalent of $1,200 annually for the average household.

Ethanol pump

SAVE AT THE PUMP: During a trip to the pump on May 18, I saved about 10 cents per gallon by choosing E30.

Prices at the pump when I fueled up last were $4.09 for regular 87 and $4.69 for premium. E15 was $4.04, E30 (my choice) was $3.99, and the best price of all was E85 at $2.79. My specific car can’t run on E85, but if it could, that’s what I’d be choosing.

Between the numerous fuel blends and the various cars we all drive, there should be a way for a flex fuel such as ethanol to play a role in your summer driving.


TAGS: Corn
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